Punta Pacifica, Hospital San Tomas and Centro Medico Paitilla

**Due to some unforeseen changes in my itinerary, I can only provide just a brief overview of some of the facilities in Panama City, which falls far short of my usual.**

Centro Medico Paitillo (CMP)

Balboa Ave. and 53rd Street

Website: http://centromedicopaitilla.com/

Founded in 1975, CMP has grown to become the largest private facility, though  Punta Pacifica appears to rapidly approaching on their heels.  They have several well-established international health insurance programs and the hallways were well populated with English-speaking visitors and patients.  The hospital has community outreach and health promotion classes as well as a 64 slice CT scanner, MRI and other diagnostic capabilities.

Website is attractive, and well-designed with English and Spanish versions.

Clinica Hospital San Fernando

Via Espana Las Sabanas

Website: http://www.hospitalsanfernando.com

There are two facilities for Hospital San Fernando; a Panama City facility and another facility in Coronado. The Panama city facility is one of two Panamanian facilities accredited by Joint Commission International.  This is a private facility designed to entice foreign visitors and upwardly mobile Panamanians.

Website with English language version that includes price quotes for International travelers. Website is well-designed and easy to navigate.

I have not visited or viewed this facility

Hospital Punta Pacifica

Boulevard Pacífica y Vía Punta Darién
Ciudad de Panamá

Website: http://www.hospitalpuntapacifica.com/

Webpage with English and Spanish versions, and has been designed for international travellers. However, the overall quality of the website is poor. Information has been poorly laid out and is often mischaracterized. For example, visitors to the site who are seeking information about individual physicians are transferred to a poorly typed resume-style pdf. Physician specialties are mislabeled; with cardiologists listed as surgeons, which may cause confusion for potential patients.

Hospital Punta Pacifica was accredited by Joint Commission International in September of 2011. Hospital Punta Pacifica’s main claim to fame, as it were, is that it is John Hopkins International branded facility.  As such, it is aggressively marketed as a medical tourism destination.

It is located in downtown Panama City, just a kilometer from the CMP (Centro Medico Paitilla).

Victoria 001

Hospital Santo Tomas

Calle 34 Este y Avenida Balboa

Website: http://hospitalsantotomas.gob.pa/

Hospital San Tomas is the oldest public hospital in Panama. Originally started as a small facility for impoverished women in September of 1702, the hospital has grown over the last 300 years to become the largest hospital in the country. The hospital now offers multiple service lines including surgical specialties such as thoracic surgery, plastic surgery and general surgery, among others.  The campus includes separate facilities (Maternity hospital, children’s hospital), a blood bank and Cancer center.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Panama – one of the international arms of the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance company, and just one of the many insurances accepted at most Panamanian facilities.

What’s this about free insurance for tourists to Panama?

In one of their more effective (and dramatic) public relations gestures, the Panamanian government widely advertises “Free  medical insurance for the visitors”.  This catastrophic policy covers all visitors during the first thirty days of their stay for accidents and injuries (up to $7000.00) that may occur during a stay in Panama.  Visitors just need to show their passports on arrival to one of the participating medical facilities.

The policy also covers up to $500.00 of dental expenses, and economy class air tickets for return home for family members (in case of a death of a tourist) and repatriation of the deceased.  (This may sound like a grisly benefit but from previous discussions with tourists in various locations – this can be quite costly.)

*Just so you know – it doesn’t cover chronic conditions or pregnancy, so visitors can’t come here and expect to have free care for non-emergent problems (ie, elective hip replacement and the like.)

Introduction to Panama City and Panama

Had some internet difficulties the last few days, so I will be posting several posts to ‘catch-up’ as it were.

downtown Panama City

downtown Panama City


The nation of Panama is a nation of contrasts; at once old and young, rich in wealth with grinding poverty, Americanized yet foreign. Rainforests, and lush jungles teem with steamy heat, in comparison with the cooler mountainous regions.  These contrasts extend to the general attitudes of local residents as well, similar to that of “big city versus friendly hometown” with Panama city residents often exemplifying the attitudes of their northern neighbors (New York City).

Daily rainstorms pound the capital city during the rainy season (May – December) but offer little respite from the heat, which can be oppressive. However, despite urbanization along with an impressive array of skyscrapers, the city remains just steps from the rainforest, and a bountiful variety of birds, plants and other animals.


Reluctant or nervous travelers will appreciate Panama’s shared history with the United States. As the USA encouraged the Central American nation towards independence (as part of American efforts to control the canal zone and thwart the Colombian government), these close ties have resulted in a degree of Americanization that is surprising to some first time travelers.

While Panama boasts of a national currency featuring ‘Balboas’ or ‘Martinellis’ by the nations’ satirists, only coins exist as evidence of this. The remainder of trade and economic barter is done using American currency. English is commonly spoken by Panamanians, and the North American presence has grown exponentially in the last decade. Several exclusive communities of United States and Canadian residents dot the Panamanian landscape, particularly in more desirable areas such as the more temperate areas surrounding David.

the 'Balboa', the official currency of Panama

the ‘Balboa’, the official currency of Panama

The shared history of Panama and ‘the gringo’ has existed for well over a century – since the Americans financed and engineered their way in – to complete that Canal project after a spectacular French failure twenty-five years earlier*.

Of course, this influx of gringos, and influence/ interference in Panamanian life comes with mixed feelings.  Some of the local publications are quite critical of  the American economy, and current government policies as being responsible for increased inflation in Panama due to their reliance on American currency due to American currency devaluation.

The large number of US ex-pats and other North Americans has a more appreciable downside to today’s tourists – in that Gringos are a frequent target for scams and rip-offs but that’s no different from several other tourist destinations, (and is more noticeable in the city itself.)

Victoria 009

International flavor

However, the local mix is much more than Panamanians and Gringos, which gives the capital city a more interesting cultural mix..  There are groups of Venezuelan immigrants both quite recent and more remote, Chinese neighborhoods as well as barrios of Colombians, Salvadorans, and other Latin American neighbors..  Germans and Russians also have a presence in the city – making it quite cosmopolitan despite the relatively small population in Panama overall with a total population of just under four million.

* Canal history is pretty interesting, so I have included some links for readers interesting in additional information.

History of the Panama Canal – wikipedia standard

Panama canal

Canal museum 

Smithsonian Collection blogs