An ER Visit to the Caja…

An interesting experience these past seven hours… had an asthma attack I couldn’t manage, so threw in the towel and called my son for help. We went to the closest hospital which is the most recent in the Central Valley – Heredia Metropolitan. Here’s how I saw it when we arrived:

Nighttime HospitalWell, there might not have been a full moon…

You usually don’t have to wait long in the ER with a breathing issue no matter where you are, and our wait was about 15 minutes tops. The first step was the Reception Desk where they needed my actual street address, whether I had insurance or not, phone, and Visa ID Number (I didn’t have it with me, but they used the number and my driver’s license). After the initial wait we met with the admitting nurse who took info about my current medications of which there were none since I’d not had any asthma related issues since I arrived a  year and a half ago except for one cold that turned into a bronchitis ‘thing’ that lasted a couple of weeks but resolved without having to fall back on the asthma medications.  The admitting nurse took me into a very large room, about the size of a regular high school gymnasium with a nurse station and two lines of chairs facing one another on each long wall. One side was for IV Therapy and the other was for Respiratory Therapy.

I was told where to sit, a nurse came over and put in a line for a reception point of what turned into a steroid shot (have no idea why they needed an IV port), then gave me the headset for an inhalation therapy session. Breath in, breath out an epinephrine type of drug that still has me trembling inside out like a vibratory resonance that doesn’t feel really good but it sure opens up the airways. I had three of those with fantastic results. Could walk out of the session and chatter vibrantly to anyone who would listen. My poor son….

So this is what the hospital looks like during the day:

Daylight hospitalI wish I could have found pictures of the interior design. You would be totally shocked. It’s beautiful. Beautiful setting and grounds, beautiful waiting chairs, very accessible personnel. All around my impression was very good – even high – about the experience…

Except for the waiting. After those three sessions with the inhalation therapy I waited for about three hours for the doctor to visit me, check me out, advise me on the drugs I’ll be taking from now on. Evidently the humidity here has the opposite effect you’d think it would for asthma related issues… not a good one.

So, bottom line, I had to wait a couple of hours more than I would in the US, but everything was pretty much the same. Differences included not taking a medical history or bp and pulse checks at the onset of the visit, and about $800,

I assumed from the look and efficiency of the hospital that my son had taken me to a private facility. He didn’t. He took me to the CAJA, which is Costa Rican Socialized Medicine. I was totally blown away twice: once when he told me it was the CAJA after the fact, and then again when I went to pay the bill…. $86 which included the shot, two prescriptions, three inhalation therapies, plus the attention from the nurses and doctor.

Welcome to Costa Rica!

Evidently the CAJA reserves the right and it is granted by the Constitution to formulate their own generic drugs, which certainly is an outstanding efficiency for those of us who need to use them. A wonderful surprise all around… plus being able to breathe again.. that’s always nice, too.

 

 

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7 responses »

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. “Public” healthcare often gets a bad rap and it’s great to see your treatment went well. The Caja system is not without its faults but when you pay $86 for a trip to the ER – I’m assuming you’re not a resident yet – compared to the thousands it would have cost in the U.S. when you’re not insured – that’s a good thing.

    • Absolutely refreshing experience – in so many ways. I know the Caja isn’t the same in all parts of the country, but the waiting is worth it if you can accommodate the process… and the price? C’mon!!

  2. Great to hear it. We live in a rural area, and have just recently been able to pay into the CR Health Care system. Have not used it yet, so this was nice to hear. I do not expect the great building you had, but the price and the service you received were excellent!!

    • Yeah, after hearing all the horror stories… well quite a few anyway… I was blown away by the service and care expressed throughout the visit and many departments. You just have to understand that it’s not computerized, everything is hand written by the nurses and doctors, the admitting and reception areas had computers now that I think about it as did the pharmacy, so perhaps the computer system is networked within the hospital setting anyway. I think another reason I had to wait for three hours after the therapy was because my blood pressure had to go back down… at one point I thought I was going to turn into a rocket and launch!! But, from what I hear, waiting is a large part of any visit to the Caja.. and I’m willing and a very patient person for the most part, so no bitching from me about any part of the experience. Thanks for reading and responding!!

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