Going To The Hospital In Spanish

The title of this post may sound silly, but anyone who has experienced this will understand.

Going to the doctor was something I took for granted in the USA.  Growing up I was a patient of whatever doctor my parents chose, and I liked it that way.  In Seattle I researched naturopathy and was a patient of an amazing naturopath who kept me healthy not just not sick.  In Buenos Aires my health has suffered since day one, and I had to go to a doctor, which I found to be a little challenging.  Here is what I learned:

Relationships, both personal and professional are highly esteemed, and truly the best way to find a doctor in Buenos Aires is to ask a trusted friend.  I tried searching online for doctors with much difficulty.  The best bet is to ask a trusted friend for advice.  This is how I’ve found a homeopath, dermatologist, psychoanalyst and clinician.  When calling your recommended doctor, mentioning the name of who recommended you will build a good rapport. There are many English speaking doctors in the city as well.

Now, the Doctor’s office and the hospital are different things, and unfortunately I have experienced both.  Back home the ER is reserved for emergencies only, but here the ER, or La Guardia is more akin to an urgent care clinic.  I had to go to the ER last year for what I thought was the flu, but what actually turned out to be a pretty severe kidney infection.  (WebMD symptom checker is not always the most reliable….)

Upon arrival to the ER first check in at the reception.  The receptionist will ask for insurance and also a basic symptom description.  Then be prepared to wait in a loud waiting room for over an hour.  A loud speaker announces names and room numbers, and when a patient’s name is called, the patient enters a specific room, indicated by numbered doors.  Inside the Doctor will treat you.  I recommend not going alone, especially if it is your first time and you have a high fever.

I went the the British Hospital in hopes of finding an English speaking doctor, but had no such luck.  Prepare accordingly for this.  It is a good idea to translate your symptoms beforehand.  Through my basic Spanish and lots of gestures to indicate symptoms I was able to communicate with my doctor.  Go with a friend and not alone if possible.  I did not bring a friend because I did not want to bother anyone, but in retrospect, I could have used a non-feverish friend to help with translating.

Should you be unlucky enough to be admitted to the hospital, like I was, don’t worry.  Nurses and doctors were all very kind and professional, and the hospital was very hygienic.  Although things appear a little chaotic and unorganized, I would venture to guess that this is typical in most busy hospitals.

In Buenos Aires there are public and private hospitals.  Public hospitals are completely free for the public, even to those lacking Argentine citizenship or insurance.  Public hospitals have a reputation for the best doctors, but are known to have old, worn down equipment.  Be prepared to spend several hours or even days in the waiting room before seeing a doctor, as the public hospitals are overcrowded.  Private hospitals, like the Hospital Britanico where I went are less crowded, and accept insurance.  If you are uninsured you can pay with cash or credit.  My five hour ER stay, including blood-work, x-rays, and an IV cost 700 pesos, around US$175.

After visiting the British, German and Italian hospitals I decided that I liked the Italian hospital the best.

Should you be here for a longer stay, you might consider purchasing local health insurance.  Medical coverage here is great.  For a reasonable monthly fee, ALL of your medical expenses, including dental will be covered.  It is even possible to have doctors come to your house.  Check out companies like OSDE or Swiss Medical, which have their own medical centers around the city.  Most insurance programs also offer one free aesthetic surgery a year.  (Which baffles me, because last time I checked, getting a butt lift or some plastic boobs had nothing to do with actual health.)

Have you had any interesting experiences with doctors or hospitals in Buenos Aires?

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About MyBeautifulAir

Wherever I go, there I am.
This entry was posted in Buenos Aires Culture, South American Safety and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Going To The Hospital In Spanish

  1. Colin says:

    I went to hospital aleman in my third week for a strange case of hives. Bright red, itching all over, never have I had anything like this before. Went there, paid $120 pesos, got straight to a dermotologist, she spoke fluent english and prescribed me some drugs. Took the drugs, within 4 hours they started disappearing, by the next day I was normal.

    My case was probably straight forward, but going to a hospital and payinn $30US to see a specialist, and be out within half an hour with drugs in hand was very awesome, particularly on a Saturday morning.

  2. Dear Vina,
    Beware of Naturopaths! Your Great Grandfather was horrified when he learned they were in Idaho. They are Quacks. Stick with the specialists recommended by a good Internal Medicine specialist.
    Love,
    Grandpa

    • I like naturopaths. In my experience most traditional doctors just want to prescribe a pill to mask a symptom and call that ‘treatment’. My naturopath would look for the root of the problem and suggest a non invasive change to fix it. She cured my carpel tunnel syndrom with vitamins and neuro-muscular therapy. My regular doctor wanted to operate. I’ve had much better experiences with naturopaths, but I will say for some things, a medical doctor is more appropriate.

  3. One free aesthetic surgery a year!?! Holy sh*t!!! That’s so Latin haha. I had a really good experience at the German private hospital in BsAs once when I had strep.

  4. Ameesha says:

    When I was deathly ill in BA a few years ago I had an exciting time with the doctor… beginning with a house call, ending with a steroid shot bought in a local pharmacy and administered to me in my bed by a neighbor, with plenty of colorful characters in between. Still undecided on good/bad… but so far so good!

  5. Belén says:

    Hi! I came across your blog through Muma’s cupcakes facebook page and I’ve been reading it for a while. I think it’s very interesting. I’m an Argentinian girl who studies English (FCE level so I still have much more to learn) and I like reading your point of view of things that usually happen here in my country. It came to my attention the way you describe the way the “Guardias” work here and that there’s a difference with the ER of your country, don’t you go to a counter and are called to a numbered room there? :O. For example, if you have a headache and a fever, what do you do?
    I totally agree with the point that hospitals’ “Guardias” here are inefficient when it comes to wait for your turn to be seen by a doctor. For instance, I live nearby the British Hospital and I have spent all my life going there and I can say that ten years ago you entered the place and next you were being called immediately. Unfortunately, many hospitals had (and still have) been increasing the amount of health insurance companies they accepted until hospitals were so crowded that the service became insufficient, so now I have to bear waiting for ages due to the amount of people that go there, but that’s a problem Argentinian hospitals have in general nowadays: they keep on accepting health insurance companies because the thing they care the most is earning money no matter what u_u.
    Nevertheless, I have to say that the British Hospital is one of the best hospitals when it comes to Pediatric ER s. I see kids come and go and being seen in almost a flash while adults are left waiting there for who-knows-how-long (except if your symptoms are serious, I remember once seeing doctors and nurses preventing a man from having a heart attack: as soon as he arrived at the hospital he said he had a severe pain in his chest but he didn’t have any insurance. However, they decided not to send them to a public hospital because it would be too dangerous and he told them his wife would pay the hospital later…)
    On the other hand, from my experience, I would strongly recommend the Italian hospital for Adult patients’ treatments (is it well said?). I think it’s the best hospital in BA. A friend’s grandpa have been operated from cancer several times there and the service has been awesome. He also is currently going there three times a week to have dialysis done and he has a not pleasant XD but rather good time there with the nurses and doctors, so if you have a problem don’t hesitate and go to the Italian hospital.
    I hope BA is treating you well haha, as you can see it has it defects but you are not alone complaining about them, most girls like me complain about life in BA… but you know, there’s always still the hope that things will get better…

    • Great info! I very much like the Italian hospital. It’s true – there are lots of things to complain about in Buenos Aires – but even more things to appreciate ! I love your comments! Thanks so much!

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