I’m always asked what I do about health care here in the Dominican Republic. It’s true that the national healthcare system, which basically provides free healthcare to Dominicans, leave a little to be desired. There are long waits and a general concern about the overall quality of care delivered by overworked medical staff.
But here on the North Coast, we are lucky to have private services that deliver quality care at an affordable price. In Sosua, the Cabarete Medical Clinic (CMC) is less than five minutes from Villa Samia. It was founded a few years ago by an Italian neurosurgeon (Roberto) and his family that have been in the country for many years. I personally have been very pleased with the care there, including treatment for the 5 broken ribs I sustained getting thrown from a horse, a minor discretionary surgery and basic medical exams. As with any medical institution, you do hear stories where the outcome was not so great, but in my mind, those are outweighed by my own personal experiences and other stories I know about first hand.
For example, a few years ago, a neighbor who had been in the country for more than 20 years (and still owns property here) learned that her nanny and housekeeper had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Roberto coordinated all of the treatment, which required some trips to the capital for specialized medical tests, and pulled together a team to successfully perform this very complicated surgery. My neighbor funded the surgery, which ended up costing about $30,000 …
The other examples concern an employee of ours. Kelvin was in a motorcycle accident 14 years ago and had lots of metal in both legs. Five years ago, he was having problems with one leg, and by the time we knew about it, and rushed him up to the clinic, we learned that any further delays in surgically correcting this problem could cost him his leg, or worse, his life. The successful surgery to remove the metal was performed at a cost of about $1,500.
Last month, he was having problems with the other leg, a lot of pain and a swollen ankle. He chose to go to the national hospital in Puerto Plata, where they x-rayed his leg, sent him home with the films, and told him to come back in a week. After a week, they told him he would need to go to Santiago to take care of the problem. We asked why he didn’t want to go to CMC, and he stated it was because it was expensive. After we assured him that we would take care of the costs, he was happy to go there, speeding up the process and eliminating multiple trips to Santiago, a couple hours away.
Because of infection, there was a delay in the surgery until the infection had been treated. Last week, he finally had the surgery. The metal in his leg (as he explained it, inside the bone!) had slipped and was putting pressure on his ankle. In a 5-hour surgery, they extracted the metal. He spent a night in the hospital, and two nights here at Casa Cary before he made the trek to his home in Sabaneta. It will be at least a month before he can walk on that leg. But as a result of the surgery, he now has no more metal in his body. As you can imagine, his family was very grateful for our assistance. This is how we choose to contribute to the country, on an individual basis, because we know exactly where the money goes and what it achieves.
Total cost for everything, including the surgery, hospital stay and medications? Just under $2,500. Of course, there will be some follow-up costs, but they will be minor. Kelvin is a loyal employee and is also going to school to improve himself. We were happy to help him get past this.
I guess my answer when people ask me about health care here is that the quality for most things is just as good as the U.S., but you can get things done quickly and affordably. It just demonstrates how broken the healthcare system in the U.S. is. How much do you think a 5-hour surgery in the U.S. would cost? I don’t even want to guess.