When one first lives in a new culture, fears arise about things we take for granted back home. Medical care is one of the big ones. This seems to be particularly true of people from the States where we have grown up with the idea that the US is the best at everything. I have found that this is dead wrong when it comes to medical care.
Nubia and I have been using Colombian medical services and insurance since we came down 4 years ago. I have had a hernia operation, some dermatological work and dental services She has been going through treatment for a cancer over the last 9 months. This is the basis of my experience.
The most salient characteristic of the Colombian medical system is the high quality of care. This is seen in the medical technology and arts, as well as the positive and thoughtful attitude of the care givers. I am not an expert on medical practice so I won’t go deeply into comparisons of treatment standards between nations. Suffice it to say that the care we have received has been first rate in our experience. It has more than met our objectives.
The friendly, caring attitude we have encountered in the doctors and nurses and even in many of the administrative folks is a strong contrast to what we generally experienced in the States. In the US there were a few bright spots but most of the service we received was cold and impersonal. I will start of by identifying the institutions we have been served by here in Medellin.
Our insurance company is SURA. This is perhaps the weakest link in terms of attitude. After all it is a big insurance company. That said, they have provided excellent coverage and have been very good about approving uncovered medications and procedures. Their staff has been reasonably efficient and definitely effective. We end up waiting in long lines but that is the nature of the beast. Our coverage costs us about $US 72.00 a month at todays exchange rate. Our typical co-pay is $US 1.20. At those rates I will wait a while!
Our primary (gatekeeper) clinic is El Instituto del Torax in the downtown area. It is located within a 20 minute walk or 5 minute cab ride of our home so it is very convenient. You may have to wait for services on a walk-in basis but rarely for long. I think the longest I have waited was 45 minutes. With an appointment service is rapid.
You are assigned a primary family doctor during you first visit. If you don’t like the particular doc or decide that another of their people would be better, you are free to change. The Torax doctors we have worked with have all been competent and friendly. They take the time to get to know you and are not in a rush to push you out the door. You leave feeling you have been helped by a person, not a robot. As my wife’s condition is of significant concern, she has been working with one of the Torax surgeons. Normally they don’t serve as primary care doctors but he agreed to take on that additional role for her to assure she was getting the care he wants her to have. Above and beyond the call of duty! Not only that he is a very nice and attentive person.
My wife’s oncology team is located at the SOMA clinic, also downtown. They are led by Doctor Mauricio Lema and have the reputation of being among the best, if not the Number One team in Medellin. They were assigned through the efforts of Torax and SURA. We are very pleased.
Dr. Lema’s team of doctors and assistants have gone out of their way to assure that Nubia get the most up to date and best possible attention. Once again they do it with the spirit of loving patient care we have come to expect. They are great!
The rest of the SOMA staff also is effective and shows the same kind of caring attitude. We cannot visit that very large clinic (it is the size of a large hospital) without being greeted by people who have previously helped. They go beyond the superficial friendliness I am accustomed to in the States. They often remember your name, why you have been there and sincerely inquire about how you are doing. This is from all levels of staff. Quite remarkable from my point of view.
Being cared about promotes the healing process. Having that care delivered by friendly people who see you as a person, not a paycheck is way beyond my previous experience. It gives us confidence and makes us feel like we will indeed be better soon. Any fears I once had about medical care here in Medellin have long since disappeared. If you are coming to visit or to stay, please feel safe and comfortable if you need to visit a doctor.