(Edited, updated and re-posted)
Happy New year to all … been a little busy with family things here at the ranch, but I hope everyone had a great holiday season … I for one am really looking forward to 2008 as I begin my second complete year of living in the Philippines (we moved here to Marilao, Bulacan in November, 2006. Regrets?
Yes, that I waited do long before I made the move.
Those who know me or are regular readers know what an important person my mother-in-law is in our life here. I don’t call her “Momma” for convenience, my own mom passed many years ago and I feel very close to Mita’s mom … she treats me as part of the family and belive me, that’s an honor.
We had a bit of a feast on Christmas Day and sometime late in the afternoon Momma swallowed something that got stuck in her throat … best guess it was a piece of skin from a piece of lechon … and after a couple hours it was still there, so off to the hospital we went.
The closest hospital to our home is named Nazarenus. It’s a small, three-story place with most common hospital equipment that certainly won’t win any prizes for decor, but the personnel their are top notch in my book. I backed my car right to the Emergency Room entrance and they quickly got a wheelchair for mom and took her in to evaluate things.
Yep, sure seems to be something there. Nope, our ENT specialist is out of town. You’d better take her to Fatima University Hospital in Venezuela (about 5 miles down MacArthur Highway, the “main drag” of Bulacan). They checked mom’s vitals and looked everything pretty thoroughly over before letting us go, Mom is well known there and the folks at Nazerenus are the kind who know the patients and actually give a care. Good to go.
(and remember, in all these cost quotes I’m giving you, I was there the whole way … I personally think all these negative comments you’ve heard about “western prices for Americans” is a lot of baseless grumbling)
… total of PhP 0.0. Try getting instant care in the emergency room at your local US hospital on Christmas Night and being charged nothing … nada.
So down the road to Fatima we go. This is a much nicer and more modern 5 story building, the teaching hospital of a small university center. Again, drive right up to the door .. I mean right up, so close I almost couldn’t open the car door.
Mom gets seen in less than 10 minutes by the attending ER physician. His evaluation? It’s too far down in her throat for me to attempt with the instruments at hand. He recommends we go to Jose Reyes Memorial on Taft Avenue in Manila where they have a 24 hour ENT department. Again, the price? Zero.
(when I was double checking facts on this article with my wife who went along on this journey she confirmed we paid nothing at either of the first two hospitals, and she seemed a bit surprised that i would ask. “they didn’t charge, because they didn’t so anything.” Ha, breath the air in the typical US Emergency Room and your wallet is going to be substantially lighter … whether or not the docs perform any procedures.)
Back in the car and another 5 or 6 miles to Jose Reyes Memorial. This was an education for me, and my wife and her brother who was with us. Reyes is a large government hospital in the heart of Manila … near Tondo, a notoriously tough slum district. Most hospitals in the Philippines are private, for pay businesses. The all-too-few government hospitals have to treat anyone who shows up. And show up we did, along with hundreds of others waiting in the ER for everything from flu symptoms to stab wounds. I took one look at the people and figured we’d be here all night or longer.
But my fears were groundless. Mom was taken within minutes to the ENT clinic and the specialist she saw wanted several x-rays. Took less than an hour total and back came the news … we can fix this, but it’s going to require general anesthetic and an OR … if you want to stay here we’ll have to admit her to a ward and wait for an OR to come available … no way to tell when.
We decided that wasn’t a good option … we finally paid something, about 770 PhP for the x-rays (which we were given to take with us … in the US hospitals charge you for x-rays and then act as if the film belonged to them instead of you), and drove another 3 miles to UST (University of Santo Thomas) a large and impressive very western-style teaching hospital on the UST campus.
UST, by the way, dates from 1611, a good 20 years before one of my direct ancestors, Dr. Comfort Starr the second held the organizational meeting for Harvard University in his living room.
Into the Emergency Room, again no waiting. Mom was hooked up top a lot of monitors and the on-call ENT was summoned. Arrival time, about 10 minutes. He looked at the x-rays, listened intently to Mom’s swallowing and confirmed what they had said at Reyes, they would have to book Mom in and put her under to get down to the obstruction with an endoscope. Like all of us, he was concerned with the general anesthesia risks for mom and wanted her observed for a while and put in top shape before scheduling the procedure.
Suddenly, Mom let out an exclamation of joy. “It’s gone!””, she cried, obviously relieved.
After some further checks the doc agreed. Yep, the pesky whatever it was had finally dislodged itself and gone on down to the tummy where it had been intended for in the first place.
Praise the Lord. Mission accomplished. A few pieces of paper to be filled up and Mom was ready for release. Thought I. “Wow, this place is a real “down town” hospital, we’re going to get socked with a big bill here. Monitors, nurses, two different doctors…”
Well, we were ‘socked’. PhP 1220. That’s right, an hour plus in a top of the line university hospital attended by ER staff plus called-in specialists, about $29 USD. You see why I feel I can live in the Philippines even though my Medicare isn’t going to cover me here?
Apologies for the length of this post … it took us along time to live through it also, but we did get Mom home before the sun came up, about 4am actually. There’s more to this medical saga but at 4 am on Boxing Day all was well, as I hope it always is for you.
Contact Me privately (Philly (at) philfaqs(dot)com) if you want the straight story on getting affordable Blue Cross medical coverage here in the Philippines.