A foreigner here in Ecuador recently had a fall and needed medical attention, the story of which makes me smile.
My Ecuadorian friends couldn’t understand why I was asking how much emergency care might cost, simply shrugging their shoulders and saying “Medical care is always free, you just have to pay for the medicine”.
Surely this can’t apply to a foreigner, we all reasoned.
With no idea what might be required, patient, passport, travel insurance paperwork and a small fortune in cash were loaded into the 4×4 and driven down to the small town about an hour away.
Upon arrival at the emergency department of the hospital, he was greeted by extremely friendly staff who apologized for his four minute wait due to another patient being seen. A very friendly and professional doctor sized up the situation and after some local anesthetic, had the cut cleaned out and stitched up with eight neat little lines of thread, eagerly asking questions about foreign lands the whole time.
The doctor wrote out a prescription for a week-long course of antibiotics and wished his new friend well as they walked to the door of the hospital. A little confused about the need for payment, the patient tried to show his insurance and passport, to which the doctor said with a broad grin, “You don’t need that here, everything is free”.
At the local pharmacy (drug store), the prescription was filled in thirty seconds and the total bill rung up – $7 (USD) including tax.
Raise your hand if you wish health care worked like that in your country.
Sitting around the dinner table that night while the story was relayed were looks of surprise, shock and outright disbelief. Stories about healthcare in homelands were told by people from all over the world, from similar accounts, to people declaring bankruptcy due to nothing more than a broken arm, an injury that will probably happen to most of us in our lifetimes. After some rough translation, the Ecuadorians couldn’t believe the cost of health care in some countries, and were downright scared when told how much one couple had paid in medical expenses just to have a baby.
I think it’s pretty clear those of us living in the “First World” have a lot to learn from those in the “Third World”.
P.S. No, mum. This story is not about me. You can stop worrying now