What Are Some Benefits Of Costa Rica’s Hospitals?
By almost any standard, Costa Rica currently has some of the best healthcare services available in Latin America. Ex-pats can access the government-run universal healthcare system known as Caja, and also the private system. Both are being upgraded frequently, and the construction of new hospitals, modern equipment, and constant implementations in the training of staff.
One of the best qualities about these hospitals is the cost: compared to the United States and much of Europe, the healthcare costs in these hospitals is around a third to a fifth in comparison, depending on which type of treatment you need most. Prescriptions are drastically less expensive as well, and a high number of the doctors here speak English and have received a majority of their training abroad.
A Snapshot of the Nation’s Overall Health
One of the reasons why the hospitals are sought after here is because of the nation’s health status: it is easily comparable to that of 1st world and developed nations. You can obtain procedures here such as laser and cosmetic surgery, along with other emergency operations with the same accuracy and attention to detail as you would find in places such as the United States.
Another very important detail regarding hospital stays in Costa Rica is the favorable water quality. Specifically in the capital of San Jose and in the majority of other towns, you can drink the water during a hospital stay without fear of sudden illness. This is one element that will really ease your mind during your stay, and make you feel just as you would at a hospital in the states.
JCI is the Joint Commission international. Their focus is on healthcare quality improvement and patient safety with an expertise in infection control, medication and facility safety.
JCI is a world leader in healthcare quality and patient safety, something you most certainly want your hospital to be a part of if you’re having major surgery. Their set of standards were developed by health care experts from around the world and tested in every region for efficacy.
Once a facility has been thoroughly assessed the accreditation decision can be made. Because the decision is cast by an international committee of health care experts, you can be sure that only the best receive this distinction.
What Kind of Quality can I Expect from Hospitals and Medical Facilities Here?
One of the amazing things about Costa Rica is the quality of public medical facilities. For the most part, if something happens to you while you are visiting here, you usually will not need the help of a private facility, and many private clinics in Costa Rica require their specialists to work part-time offering their services in the public hospitals.
When a patient is contemplating coming from a different nation to explore the options of having surgery here, they are always encouraged to see that the wait times here are much shorter than what a resident would encounter in the public sector. It can be relatively easy for a foreigner to nail down a spot in a private clinic here, because many Costa Rican residents feel that they are too expensive, while they still hover at around 1/5 the cost of other nations.
As far as how patients will really feel any different than they would in the U.S., some of the hospitals are open air, and while you think this may be uncomfortable, only gets warm for a few hours in the afternoon. Much like the climate in Hawaii, the nights are cool and perfect, and this allows for a deeper rest for the patient.
Many of the hospitals in Costa Rica also have features such as butterfly gardens for the patient to enjoy during the day, where you can obtain an extra dose of mental health. When you first look at a public hospital in Costa Rica, it may seem as if it is in need of some basic updates and structural shine, but the quality of care rivals that in the States and Europe. The hospitals here may not have the entirely sterile feel as those In the States, but the integrity, technology, and quickness to respond to emergency are on par with the best in the world.
There are currently only three hospitals in Costa Rica that have JCI accreditation:
- Hospital CIMA in Escazu, Costa Rica.
- Hospital Clinica Biblica in San Jose and…
- Hospital Clinica La Catolica in Guadalupe, San Jose
When a hospital is JCI accredited, as all three hospitals are, it means that they volunteered to have this independent organization assess them to determine if they meet the set of standards required to improve patient care and more importantly it shows the facility’s commitment to quality standards.
If a hospital is concerned about JCI accreditation you can be sure that they care about you, the patient, and your experience at their facility. All three hospitals share this exceptional quality standard.
There are some differences though to these hospitals, certain unique aspects that set them all apart. I will outline each one separately:
Hospital CIMA in Escazu, Costa Rica.
CIMA is located in Escazu, an upscale city community, about 30 minutes from the Juan Santamaria international airport. Opened in February 2000, within 4 years it had attained 40% of the private hospital clients, which needless to say is quite extraordinary.
If you have ever been in a North American hospital then stepping into CIMA will be very comforting and familiar experience. It is a clean, state of the art facility, where even the IV tubing is the same as you would see in most North American hospitals.
It is operated by a US corporation out of Dallas and boasts the most English speaking staff of any of the hospitals in Costa Rica. They seem to work well with insurance and claim a 30-70% decrease in cost from a North American facility. Of the three JCI accredited hospitals in Costa Rica, CIMA is usually the most expensive but with that comes the most modern facility offering more choice then anywhere else in the country.
There are over 400 doctors that represent over 60 different medical specialties, giving you the most medical options out of all 3 facilities. CIMA has 2 towers of doctor offices connected to the hospital and 3 hotels directly adjacent to the hospital. There is an advanced imaging center complete with MRI, open MRI, CT, ultrasound, endoscopy, x-ray, bone density scanner, and nuclear medicine.
Hospital CIMA also has a full service laboratory and a 24 hour pharmacy all on site. There is also a special international insurance claims department to handle the insurance needs of Americans. 25% of the patients seen at CIMA are foreigners, the most out of all 3 hospitals and substantial proof of the preference by foreigners of this facility.
CIMA is unique in many ways and seems to constantly be trying to improve upon its services. Staff is upheld to extremely strict credential checks that have been put in place by the all American upper management team.
Also unique to CIMA Hospital is that they are the only hospital to offer experienced green light laser surgery as a less invasive and more effective treatment option for prostate enlargement, which effects over 50% of men over 60 years of age. In addition, in 2009 CIMA opened 4 new state of the art operating rooms, with the most modern technology in all of Central America, rivaling anyplace in the world. Moreover, they also obtained a new CT scan that is far faster than all other scanners and offers a 70% decrease in exposure to radiation.
CIMA was the first hospital to receive special accreditation from the Costa Rican government and also holds 2 more special notations. One for maintaining the highest standards of infection control practices and the other for their medical staff credentialing which is on par with John Hopkins and other internationally renowned hospitals and medical centers. CIMA sets itself apart on a continual basis.
Hospital Clinica Biblica in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Also in San Jose although downtown and a bit harder to locate, Hospital Biblica was founded in 1929 and is a private, not for profit, facility. It was the first of the 3 hospitals to attain JCI accreditation.
Hospital Biblica offers over 200 physicians covering a wide variety of medical services. The campus includes a full service laboratory, 24 hour pharmacy with express service, and an advanced imaging center. 20% of patients attended to at Clinica Biblica are foreigners, making them quite capable of addressing the particular needs of North Americans.
They boast a saving of, on average, 70% from what you would pay in a US facility. But they also state that the savings may be as high as 300% on certain procedures. To assist with the insurance needs of the international client the hospital has a fantastic insurance department.
The stated mortality rate is under 1%, a very impressive statistic especially since most facilities in the US see a death rate of over 8%. On a regular floor the patient to nurse ratio is 4:1, in the US it is most often 6 or 7:1. On an intensive care floor it is 1:1 or 2:1, same as in the US. Most of the hospitals in Costa Rica share the same or similar statistics.
Hospital Biblica also offers a health care assistant program for added assistance throughout your stay. The hospital also prides itself on preventative medicine and so offers a comprehensive preventative medical program to assist in formulating an individual health plan as well as offering full medical check up services.
Hospital Clinica La Catolica in Guadalupe, San Jose
Located in Guadalupe, San Jose, Hospital Catolica was founded in 1963 and has been building on its quality of service ever since. To compare, most people seem to find that Catolica is a bit less corporate and so seems to be more of a friendly atmosphere. It also seems to be slightly less expensive then CIMA but at the same time slightly less modern. The entire hospital has been renovated over the last few years and has a warm, bright and clean appearance.
Catolica, which has 109 beds available, employs over 70 doctors and covers over 30 different medical specialties. They have a modern laboratory as well as an imaging center to cover xrays, ct scans, MRI scans, etc. It is a 69 room hospital with 10 state of the art operating rooms complete with all the high tech equipment you would expect to find in any NA hospital.
Catolica is unique in a few ways. It is the only hospital in Costa Rica with a hyperbaric chamber, that can be used independently or to house up to 6 patients at a time. Hyperbaric chambers can be used to treat a number of ailments and is proven to provide faster healing, to decrease length of stay in the hospital, and to decrease the medication consumed after surgery.
Another unique component to Hospital Catolica is its 34 room hotel maintained on site in the hospital itself. The rooms are available for the patient as well as their family members and include everything you would find in any hotel, cable tv, hot water, wireless internet, etc.
It is a good alternative for a safe and convenient recovery, with an onsite modern spa and physical therapy area, complete with a fully equipped Pilates studio. When staying at the hotel you will have easy access to medical attention as well as access to exceptional food under the supervision of a nutritionist.
All three JCI accredited hospitals want to insure that your experience is a positive one. Many of the doctors featured on CostaRicaHospital.com share time between all three hospitals, so your experience is sure to be high quality no matter which facility is chosen.
Quality of Doctors in Costa Rica
Most of the doctors here have been trained in Europe or North America. One of the most unique things about the system overall in Costa Rica is that the doctors are known to take more time with patients to answer questions and listen. It is not unusual for doctors to call their patients at home, and here they will usually offer their cell phone numbers or even a pager number as assurance that you can get in touch with them if you need.
One governing factor in the quality of doctors and their amiability here is that they are quite less interested in making a profit, and more interested in actually serving the people. In Costa Rica the incredibly high malpractice rates that you see in the US don’t exist, and so doctors know that if they pursue this career, they can still make a living without charging inflated prices.
What About Healthcare for Veterans In Costa Rica?
In Costa Rica, the Clinica Biblica does now accept medical coverage dictated by CHAMPUS and Tri Care Latin America for hospital and pharmacy services. They must be a current U.S. Military retiree with an ID card and 20 years of active duty, and be 65 years or over with Medicare Part B.
Current ID cards for all dependents under 21 years of age if in college with proof of enrollment must be presented, and unmarried widows must have the related documents above for their deceased husband.
What are the Quality of Hotels like to stay in?
During 2012, this was named the happiest country on the planet, and after one stay in this sunny and vibrant nation, you’ll agree. There are beach bungalows, forest lodges, and eco-friendly hotels that abound here, and many options for locations to stay during your visit.
If you are here for a hospital stay, you may want to have just a comfortable room in the city of San Jose that is close to the airport, and a place to recover for just three days. If you are arriving for a surgery that is more cosmetic or not as painful, you can opt to find something by the oceanfront, where you can stick around and truly drink in the tico lifestyle after your stay.
You can find a very luxurious hotel room with amenities such as a private beach and stunning views of the gulf in locations like Jaco; many of them offer gourmet dining, spas, and outdoor pools for your enjoyment. Luxury hotels here offer other activities such as rain forest hiking tours, beach horseback rides, and the ability for you to walk through forests full of waterfalls and lush flora.
Luxury hotels can be found here for an average price of around $170 per night, and this may be the perfect opportunity for you to recuperate. In areas such as Nosara, you can find rooms with the basic essentials for around $100 a night: they are still incredibly clean and livable, and have TV’s and refrigerators. Many times when a hospital stay is in question, the patient may just want to rest and recuperate without needing many lavish extras.
San Jose is the location where many get medical treatment: this is where the majority of the larger hospitals are located that can service you quickly. The doctors here are very skilled, and used to seeing a large volume of patients. You can find a hotel here for an average price of $110 dollars a night such as a Radisson or Marriott, that will be more than sufficient to make your stay worthwhile.
After any stay in a hospital, a welcome hotel room is going to be a great thing for you to come back to for a few days of recovery. Having a base of operations for your spouse or loved one to make sure that you are ok at the end of the day will mean a lot, and provide a refuge for you that is invaluable.
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