A New Kind of Blog

There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Doctors, hospitals and pharmacies

We have been quite pleased with the quality of health care we have encountered here in Cuenca.  As we mentioned before, there are three major private hospitals, Santa Ines, Monte Sinai, and Hospital Del Rio (a new teaching hospital run by a US conglomerate).  The hospitals are clean, have modern equipment and are staffed by unusually caring personnel (something we seldom encountered in the US).  Next to the hospitals are the Consultorios, or office buildings where the doctors have offices and see patients. Many speak English and, if you have an English speaking doctor, he or she will often take you to a Spanish speaking referral and translate for you. It is also not unusual for a doctor to make a house call. How many of us can remember that happening? There are a number of public hospitals where military families, Social Security patients or anyone with a cedula can be treated at little or no cost. They are a lot less desirable as they are not especially clean and are extremely crowded. A patient must go to the hospital at four in the morning to get an appointment to see a doctor or be admitted except in an emergency.  Almost all the expats we know use private hospitals and have been quite pleased with the quality of service. Health care is inexpensive compared to the US and Europe and, we have heard, compares favorably with Canadian costs. Health care plans are expensive and are notorious in not paying claims. Most expats choose to self-insure and use a pay-as-you-go system. Pharmacies are all over town with a few chains like Fybeca, the largest. Many of the over the counter prescriptions and brands of cosmetics, dental, shaving, and other items you are accustomed to are available. But there are a few that are limited. Cold medications are few and far between possibly because we seldom get colds. The steady weather conditions rather than the changing seasons up North, may be why. There are vitamins but only a few like C, Ginko and other herbal types but, unusually, not B12 complex or minerals. Aspirin only comes in 500 and 100 mg sizes. Most medications other than narcotics can be obtained at the pharmacies without a prescription. The pharmacists are excellent in advising what to take if you describe your symptoms. There is usually a generic available if they do not have your exact medication. Bring an empty bottle so they can see the exact ingredients. Magazines for sale in the pharmacies are all sealed in plastic possibly to prevent you from reading them and not buying.  The pharmacies are small compared to CVS or Walgreens but are adequate in most departments. Dental care is inexpensive compared with North America and often up to US standards. When you sum it all up, the quality of health care, the cost and ready accessibility of medical help in the city of Cuenca, plus the availability of an enormous variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, makes good health something to look forward to here in the mountains of Ecuador.

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