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?