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Mortality and Medical Care

I have been lucky since I have moved here. Except for a little athlete’s foot and an allergic reaction to a foot powder, I have not needed any medical care. From what I have heard, in Davao, there is good doctors and medical care available. This is part of what we need to think about and understand before moving here.

Just going to a doctor or hospital here is different from what is normal practice in America. Here a doctor has his hours posted and it is a first come, first serve basis. Then if the doctor is late, has an operation or even needs to do hospital rounds, you just wait. If you need lab tests, you go to the lab, wait for the results and bring them back to the doctor.

If you are admitted to the hospital, you need to have watchers available. A watcher is a friend or family member that will take shifts staying with you in the hospital room. If your doctor prescribes a medicine, the watcher will take money and go to the pharmacy in the hospital to have it filled. If the hospital is out of the drug, your watcher will have to go to a pharmacy that has that drug in stock.

When it is time to be released, if the doctor is not on duty and is unavailable to come in, you will need to stay an additional day until the doctor can sign your release. Another doctor is not allowed to sign your release, unless arraignments were made to sign your release.

An expat I knew had a heart attack and went to Davao Doctors Hospital. Davao Doctors hospital is supposed to have the best cardiac care unit in Davao. A day hours after his surgery, I am not sure how long actually, he died. I do not know the complete story.

Some think about moving to the Philippines and live in the Provinces. They like the fact it is more rural and quiet and a lot cheaper to live there. The problem moving to a remote area is services such as landline phone, internet, shopping and medical. Even the urban areas in the Provinces can have less in availability and services.

I have a friend who spends the weekdays in Davao and the weekends with his wife and child in the Provinces. The area he lives is next to Kidapawan, which is more like a small city. A week ago, he felt pain in his lower abdomen. He went Saturday morning to the doctor and the doctor prescribed some medicine. The next morning his pain became sever and went to the hospital. He was suffering from Diverticulitis and it looks like it became infected and burst. His blood pressure was extremely low and the needed to operate. As I was told, because of the low blood pressure, they were afraid of using anesthesia so they operated on his intestines while he was conscious.  The hospital needed some medicine that was only available in Davao and before it arrived, my friend passed away.

Since most of the expats that move to the Philippines are in their retirement ages, we need to realize that as we get older, more medical problems can develop. Will your problem be able to be cared for correctly here? What happens if it cannot? These are things to consider, especially if you are not living in a more developed city.

27 Responses to “Mortality and Medical Care”

  1. Vanessa says:

    Exactly what i told Richard, not everything is readily available in the provinces like for example an ambulance or timely medical care when admitted in the hospital. Quite frankly i’m a little scared to get admitted in the hospital over there, now that i know quite a lot about how hospital/medical works here in the US. Being a hospital worker here in San Antonio, i can’t help but compare the care we recieve here and in the Philippines. Expectations are now high, then again this is something i need to adjust once we move back there.

    • Neal in RI says:

      Vanessa

      You sound just like my Wife here in RI as well, she is always thinking of the worst case things that could happen when we move back to RP.
      To me the worst case thing is to continue the American Rat Race routine of work just to have most of your hard earned $$ spent on Vehicle Taxes,Property Taxes, Fire Taxes Car Insur and the list goes on and on.
      She has been here in RI for 25 years and she now is realizing that the Simple Lifestyle of the Philippines will be much better.
      So now she as well has the dream of returning to RP to the Simple Life.

      • Bruce says:

        Neal,
        It is good your wife worries about you. And with the unemployment, underemployment, taxes and cost of living climbing, it is getting difficult to retire in the States. But living here is not a cheaper version of America, it is the Philippines with different culture, lifestyle and many other differences.

    • Bruce says:

      Vanessa,
      From what I have heard, medical in Davao and the other big cities such as Cebu and Manila are good. I was trying to warn people who are thinking of the cheaper life in the provinces.

  2. Jan says:

    Bruce,
    Very good post,
    For us foreigners, it is necessary when we find ourselves a place to live in the Philippines, that we know where the hospitals are. We also should know which hospitals are having better facilities. Private hospitals are usually the better ones but cannot be found in provincial areas, only in larger cities.
    As you probably know I am looking for a permanent place to live. One of the arguments in choosing this new place is the availability of a good hospital nearby.
    One other thing is that medical expenses could go high, especial for longer treatment or special treatment. An expat should have enough funds to cover that or have a good medical insurance.

    • Bruce says:

      Jan,
      You are right, keeping a savings for future problems is a good plan. Also to look into some of the health insurance options for us foreigners.

  3. Neal in RI says:

    Bruce, I must say you have not painted a pretty on the healthcare there. But then again if I was to sit here in RI and think of every possible thing that could go wrong there in RP I might as well just give up on my plans to move there in the future.

    • Bruce says:

      Neal,
      There are things more difficult here, but we all must realize that before we pack up and relocate. As I have written, a short vacation here without seeing how daily life would be like is not good due diligence. Even staying here for a month, at a Filipino familys house is not enough since the family will do everything to make your life comfortable, especially if your wallet is open for them. For medical, the bigger cities have better care than in remote areas.

  4. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, I have a pacemaker/Defibulator in my chest.
    I have only lived in Davao a month and have contacted a heart specialist/Cardioligist at Davao Dr’s. They have my meds and have very good care.
    I carry insurance from the states and all seems to work well. I’m pretty strong and healthy for a heart patient and get out and about every day.
    I do not suggest that a move to the PI is for everyone, but I’m doing quite well. The care I have recieved here is good, but by no means does it compare to the states.
    If you take the chance to live here, please understand, it’s a CHANCE. Traffic and crossing the street will probably get us all first. Good luck and God Bless!
    Steve in Davao.

    • Bruce says:

      Steve,
      I was not trying to imply medical care in the Philippines is substandard. What I was trying to say is if you plan to live in the Provence’s, there can be a problem with some medical needs.

  5. Ken says:

    Bruce,

    I completely agree, as often times we fall in love with the GOOD things we hear about a potential retirement spot while largely ignoring the negatives.

    While I am not currently married to a filipina, the Philippines is one of a few countries I am seriously considering retiring to. A huge percentage of my savings while I’m still working, although I am healthy at age 41, goes towards what I consider will be my biggest future expense; MEDICAL…..As we age, unforeseen health problems are sure to show their ugly faces. I want to know that I can at the very least get to Makati Medical Center if something serious were to happen.

    • Bruce says:

      Ken,
      Makati is a very cosmopolitan city and I would assume has the best of most things there. For me the crowds and cost to live there is too high. Also my wife’s family are here in Davao.

  6. Randy says:

    I was very satisfied with the medical care I received while in Davao. I went once for an ear infection and I foudn the doctor was very thourough in checking my ears and my hearing. When all was said and done, I had maybe 10 minutes waiting time when I arrived. The doctor and nurse where very nice. The visit only cost 400 pesos. (Less than $10) and I was prescribed an anti-biotic and sent on my way.
    The second time wasa visit to the dentist. They did a thorough cleaning and then I had 3 small fillings done. The dentist was good. Didnt really feel anything and at the end of the visit I think it cost about 1800 pesos. (Less than $50).
    Im looking forward to my next vacation to Davao where I will probably re-visit the dentist and perhaps have a complete physical done there.

    • Bruce says:

      Randy,
      As I mentioned, the medical care in the cities such as Manila, Davao, Cebu and others are good. It is the provinces where you need to keep in mind that it might not be as advanced.

      Once nice thing in Davao is their 911 service. They will send an ambulance with EMT’s and it is totally free.

  7. david S. says:

    Excellent topic Bruce. Access to emergency care is definately something one must keep in mind before choosing to live far from a major metroplitan area.

    One point I’d like to add is this: Even if you live in a large city and make it to the hospital, you still need to have cash before they’ll treat you. This means making arrangements to have a responsible party bring cash to the hospital. Even if you have insurance, the standard proactice is to bill you first and let you settle with your insurance company in many cases. You could literally die waiting for the bank to open.

  8. Steve in Davao says:

    Bruce, nor do I say that medical care here is good or bad, just that with some research and careful planning one can live here comfortably. Moving out to the provinces has it’s own set of rules. Some love it and I would too. Unfortunately I can not go so far from the good medical care I receive here in the city. My wife’s family has property in the province and I enjoy being there. but the difficulties, that living there might create for her, keeps me living within 30 minutes of downtown. After careful consideration, that’s My choice. Thanks for another informative article, keep them coming.

  9. Paul says:

    “I have been lucky since I have moved here. Except for a little athlete’s foot and an allergic reaction to a foot powder, I have not needed any medical care.”

    When i came back to the Philippines to live, I came across that athlete’s foot thing myself. I ended up always using saddles when i clean myself even in my own house…unlike back at home in my country it is not a worry like i found out through experience here.

    I was advised to use vinegar on my feet.

    Now after every wash up i rub alcohol on my feet…Green Cross is my favorite company to purchase.

    I never really needed a doctor yet, but if i ever do need a doctor I have my landlord’s family plus a few neighbors who have taken up their four year degree in RN and now is practicing and teaching it themselves.

    I am very happy to have the landlord I have.

  10. Carol says:

    I’d like to give my friend in the US a link to your post to give her an overview what is the real picture. My son got ill last August and he was admitted three times during that month. I don’t know if I should be disgusted or what…or just say ‘It’s OK’ because my son is well now. But hey, we spent a lot for the three bills and until now we are paying off debt. I must say it is because the first hospital we went to isn’t that good in terms of lab tests. My baby was even poked with a needle 14 times and I was really mad. Told them the doc should be there to see why IV insertion is hard (my son has Mongolian spots on both hands and feet). It is a long story but even in the best hospital here I fought with a nurse because of malpractice. If I do not have a little knowledge about procedure etc (because I always get admitted when I was small) I think my son will really suffer.

    About medical care in the provinces, yes I agree to that. We are living in Trento, Agusan del Sur when my son got ill…..and because of that, we moved back here in Davao for good.

    • Bruce says:

      Carol,
      There are many problems here but no body wants to fix them. Many are trained to just follow orders and not think for themselves. This country and its people need to want a change before any changes can take place.

      P.S. Thanks for visiting my site and commenting. I would be happy for you to tell all your friends to visit. The more the merrier.

  11. edward says:

    Hi Bruce,would like to make a comment,on healthcare in Davao.As you know,i have recently spent 3 days in St Pedro hospital,suffering from Dengue Fever.The service i received was first class my watcher was my wife,who is a qualified caregiver.I have lived in Davao for two years now,before i moved here,i was a maintenance engineer,for over twenty years,working at a top London hospital,so nothing surprises me when it comes to hospitals.On my return visit for check up, i gave my doctor who happens,to be a woman,German chocolate.Not a word,from her,lesson learnt,next time cadburys chocolate from the uk

    • Bruce says:

      Edward,
      I am glad you commented on San Pedro Hospital. That was where Elena had her operation and is her favored place for medical needs. About the doctor, yes, give her cadburys or even Hershey and give the good stuff to Elena. She is a chocolate lover. 🙂

      • nena cutler bell says:

        HI,Bruce,
        I was just reading all the messages about moving on in Davao city, which i came from that city, but am already here in Western Australia for 29 years.

        Although, am thinking of moving there,but at the same time am also having second thoughts? My two daughters has already been in Davao City twice the past, one was just nearly four years ago. Same as my grandson, but unfortunately when we there the last time, he became ill, so we were in at one of the hospital there. The service seems ok, but always the money was on the go for everything that was needed. So, to me, what if you haven’t got the cash at all? How could be the patient survive,or how they will give the service if in case the circumstances turn into a big nightmare?

        To me,even though i was coming from that country, I still have to make sure that the decision am gonna make is really good for me or to my husband maybe, especially he has a heart problem. I will rethink the plans on moving there, unless, I will make sure that the medical services are well and truly good liked what we’ve got here in Australia.

        Maybe,if ill meet a doctor who is really good in every health problem that will occur and that hes not just after the money cause you come from the western world. Then, i may not have to have a second thoughts. For now, i haven’t made a decision to go through with my plans, because both my two daughters didn’t liked the system there at all. Plus, they had seen all the misery that young people had suffered due to the unemployment, so it took them the decision of no,no,to the idea at all.

        They said they haven’t got any thing against of the country,except,what they saw. Enough for them to rethink about living there one day. Maybe for a long holiday is OK. But not to decide it will be good,to me.
        I think to have a long holiday is the bests idea to decide,rather than come to a final decisions,and regret is at the end.
        Thank you Bruce for letting us say in your website. Its a good idea to rethink I guess, rather than,regret it in the end.

        • Bruce says:

          Nena,
          Thank you for visiting and commenting. I did edit your comment. Sentences start with a space and then Upper Case letter. a “?” ends a sentence that is a question and paragraphs start new thoughts.

          About Medical care here, as I have heard it is good but of course not to Western country high standards. I have also heard some doctors charge a higher price for a Foreigner.

          Since there is only PhilHealth for most Filipinos, visiting a doctor or goig to the hospital can be expensive. From what I know, there is little or no free medical service for the poor.

          Moving here is not for everyone and even you living abroad for so long have become comfortable with the better things. Moving here is up to you and nobody can make that decision for you or your husband.

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