Today I spoke with an M.D. who works at the public hospital in the Ciudad Vieja area of Montevideo. He is a cardiologist.

Naturally I questioned him about health care in Uruguay.

As already posted elsewhere in this blog, medical care is reported to be very good here–and affordable. I have been told that if you need something as sophisticated as a heart transplant you would need to cross the river to Buenos Aires. But Uruguay is prepared for illness short of that.

Actually, free medical care is available at the hospital in the Old City. Those of you from the U.S. who are old enough to remember the old free county hospitals may have a good idea of how this physician described the public hospital. You have to wait for a long time because they accept everyone. Even someone with a child with sniffles. It is so easy to run to the hospital when it is free. Probably it is the worst thing you can do since who knows what you can pick up there that you didn´t have already–in ANY hospital.

But they will treat anyone, whether you are a resident or not, citizen or not–doesn´t matter. You will have to pick up and pay for your own medication if you do not have a card issued by the hospital. All you have to do to get a card is apply for one. Once you have a card, they will even provide your medications.

However, this cardiologist told me that if you can afford the private doctors and clinics you are better off there. I said “Why? Is there something wrong with going to the public hospital?”

“No,” he said, “but sometimes we do not have the things we need. Sometimes we don´t even have gloves.”

But still, qualified free medical care is available for those who need or want it.

Of course there are private physicians and numerous private clinics and hospitals. I have not had experience with them, but other expats report satisfaction with their private medical care.

© Arlean Kelley 03/11/2009 All rights reserved.