Monday, January 7, 2008

Health Care

We hear a lot of excuses from people who would otherwise pack up and move to a tropical island in a heartbeat if they didn't have all these reasons to stay exactly where they already are. One of these excuses is concern about health care. We get questions about this quite often. We have now been here long enough to have availed ourselves of medical attention several times. I thought I would describe some of the health care available here on Providenciales. (the sales and marketing people call this "overcoming objections")

There are basically two levels of health care here, public and private. Starting at the public, government supported end, the TCI has a basic clinic already in place. This is one of the entrances to the Myrtle-Rigby Health Center:

Myrtle-Rigby is a walk-in clinic, with emergency care for most of the basics. When we stopped by there this afternoon to take the photo, there were three ambulances parked in the lot waiting for a call. That's actually not too bad for an island of 20,000 people. We have not used the government clinic system as of yet, but have seen them. Last year we took a photo of the small clinic on Salt Cay, for example. This is an island of less than 60 people:

(Don't worry, the guys who paint the signs are not the same guys with the medical degrees)

There are clinics on the other islands where there are populations. Only 8 of the 40 or so islands in the TCI are inhabited. The TCI Government even has a mobile unit to take care of dental problems on a call-out basis:

I don't seem to recall Government dentists making house calls anywhere I lived in the US, but of course I could be wrong about that.

About a week ago, it was announced that final funding and approvals were in place for two new modern hospitals to be built here starting immediately. One is to be on Grand Turk, and the other is here on Provo. This is to be the general design of the new hospital on Provo:

The drawing looks funny because I just cropped it off the sign at the entrance to the new hospital site:

And this is not just a propaganda claim, it IS a promise made, and a promise kept. The land was set aside and dedicated last September:

and work is starting already. So far, its just a big, cleared, level field with a view of the ocean in the distant background:

But it looks like the first module of the "Small Country Modern Hospital Kit" has arrived on site :

(Some Assembly Required)

In addition to the government subsidized health care here, there is a network of private physicians and dentists. These are the guys that we normally use. There are several independent physicians listed in the phone book, but we typically do our one-stop health care shopping at the Menzies-Bourne Health Center:

Last year I had a severe knee inflammation, and came here for the first time. I had no health insurance at the time. The x-rays of both knees cost me around $ 100. Then I visited a different clinic to see Dr. Rufus Ewing. He aspirated my knee, pumped it full of steroids, and I was good to go. I have some experience with doctors, and Dr. Ewing did a better job and caused me less discomfort than the last time this happened and I went to an orthopedic surgeon in Massachusetts.

At the Menzies-Bourne center, there is an entire section devoted to dental care:

There are several private dentists working out of this office, and don't be misled by the exterior of the facility. These are external doors, exposed to the sun, wind, and rain of a tropical environment. Inside you will find your familiar air-conditioned waiting rooms and all the gleaming hi-tech chairs and electronic instruments of torture modern dentistry can provide.

There are local CAT scan and mammogram imaging capabilities here in addition to x-ray:

There is an optometrist on site:

and a full-service pharmacy right next door to the main clinic entrance:

As anyone who reads these posts knows by now, on Christmas Day La Gringa was in so much pain from lower back issues that she could barely move. She suffered through it for the day, and then on the day after Christmas we decided that bed rest, aspirin, heating pads and rum were not going to do the trick. Even though the day after Christmas is a holiday here ("Boxing Day") I called the Menzies-Bourne clinic and was told that Dr. Menzies was on call. I was given his private cell phone number. I called it, and lo and behold who answered but Dr. Menzies himself. (THAT has never happened to me in the US, either.) He said he would meet us at the clinic in 30 minutes. And he did. He suggested La Gringa get bed rest, and he prescribed heavy duty ibuprofens and oxycodone for the pain, and told us to contact the chiropractor ( also in his clinic) for an appointment. Total cost for Dr. Menzies to meet us at the clinic on a holiday, including enough pain medication to get La Gringa through the weekend? $ 25. What would that cost in the US?

Total time from when we arrived at the clinic until we were on our way home? 15 minutes. What would it take you in the US in an Emergency Room situation to walk out of there with oxycodone? I bet it ain't fifteen minutes.

She went to the Chiropractor on the following Monday ( New Year's Eve) and has now been there three times. She is walking around and talking about going fishing. Each chiropractor visit? $65.

The doctors here are a combination of nationalities. Dr. Menzies and Dr. Bourne are British, and trained in the UK. Dr. Bourne took care of an ear infection for me last year. Dr. Jo Pretorius is South African. There are Canadian medical personnel here as well. I know there are French trained doctors on the island. And of course there are Haitians for those times when sacrificing a chicken is the only solution. There are obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and even acupuncture specialists.

Near where we are living there is another medical center in the Grace Bay area. In a suite of offices behind the Grace Bay Pharmacy building is another group of physicians we have not even dealt with yet. We just know of their existence. We haven't tried them only because we have been happy with the health care we have been getting at our first stop.

In the case of serious injury, any of these organizations can put a patient on a Life Flight jet at the airport ten minutes away and they can be in Miami in less than an hour.

I know there are no nice tropical photos in this post, but the blog IS supposed to be about what it's like to pack up and move from the US to a foreign country.

It can't be about fishing and diving every day.

SO, if worrying about basic health care is one of the excuses you use to not try your tropical need a better excuse. We can talk about primary and secondary education for your children, too, if that's what's holding you back.


Anonymous said...

New Hospital?
Looks more like a Prison.

La Gringa said...

Hopefully, I will be recovered enough soon to get back out on the ocean and get back to posting more scenic tropical and underwater photos. Between the boat repairs and my back - we've been pretty limited lately. Doc says swimming is good and Gringo has fixed the hooka. So maybe we'll get to do some diving when the winds settle! In the meantime, thanks for staying with us.

Anonymous said...

we are in salt cay approx. 4x a year and there is actually a nurse on the island now who drives around in an ambulance-type vehicle! this on an island with only a handful of cars!

times, they are a-changin'.

Anonymous said...

Wow, could you use a physical therapist? (me) Once again your blog has exceeded my expectations, this is truly a life in the islands site. Keep up the good work, you make me smile everyday.Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I am not crazy about the architecture, either...but I pretty much consider hospitals to be similar to prisons, anyway.