What happens when you are living/on vacation in Costa Rica and the unexpected happens? It is something none of us want to think about yet something we all need to be prepared for, and because of this I thought it would be important to provide the info on the Costa Rica public hospital system.
For info on Costa Rica’s Private Hospitals click here.
Costa Rica and CAJA
Costa Rica offers residents and visitors alike access to its public hospital system which is under the control of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). For the rest of this article I will refer to it as CAJA as that is the common word you here it referred to as while in Costa Rica.
CAJA Hospital Locations
In Costa Rica there are a total of 29 CAJA run hospitals and 250+ clinics located through out the country. While finding a map of all of the locations is rather difficult, a good bet is that in almost every larger city is a CAJA run hospital and in most medium sized (2,000+ people) have a clinic.
Update: I was able to find this PDF featuring a map with many of the hospitals locations. Click Here
What to Expect
Most Costa Rican public hospitals will appear a bit rough around the edges from the outside, especially when compared to hospitals in the US and Canada. Once inside you will also find the system to be a bit crowded and chaotic to say the least, and this is one of the places in particular that knowing Spanish would be highly beneficial.
Once you get past the basic superficial differences you will actually find that the doctors in the CAJA system are well trained, well-mannered and most importantly really willing/wanting to help. The Costa Rica hospital system itself is generally regarded as one of the top in Central America.
The CAJA Experience
To be honest I have heard of both positive and negative experiences in the CAJA medical system, but to say that is any different from any other health system would be a lie. What I can say for sure is that I personally know of one person in particular that would not be here today had their medical emergency happened in almost any other country. After suffering a major heart attack and flat lining in the hospital, the doctor and nurses continued to try and revive the patient for over 3 minutes… The doctor was dripping sweet from compressing the patient’s chest and at almost 4 minutes, the patient’s heart started beating again. I have talked to several medical professionals in the US that said in only about 1/10 cases would have they kept trying to resuscitate after 3 minutes.
The point of this story is not to say that one medical system is better than another, just that it would be wrong to judge one based on outward appearances.
Costa Rica Private Hospitals
For those of you looking for more North Americanized medical facilities, Costa Rica offers a private hospital system available at a cost to both residents and tourists.
I will offer more information on this topic in a later post and will add the link here.