Monday and Tuesday were busy days. When traveling, a common question is what one could be favorably shopping at the destination. In Colombia, the health sector seems to offer good value for money.
Colombia is, for good and bad, well-connected with the United States. One effect of this is that Bogotá holds a number of excellent medical doctors and dentists. Having scheduled my exams only a couple of days ago, the time for judgment had come.
Let me remark that the professionals I chose to consult were not picked out out of the phone book, but warmly recommended by friends of mine.
Monday, the medical doctor for allergy was first thing in the morning. I was charged 70.000 Colombian pesos, some 26 euros for an examination without any special tests, i.e. about the same I would have paid in Sweden, oftentimes after several months of waiting. Of course – what I pay for a specialist physician in Sweden is only a minor part of the real price – the remainder is paid for thru tax subsidies.
A few hours later I went to the dentist. The price was 60.000 pesos, some 22 euros, and included a thorough exam, cleaning and profylactic treatment. A difference compared to Sweden was that the dentist did not have an X-ray machine of his own, and that the standard four X-rays they do in Sweden isn’t considered necessary here. But in my case there was a suspicious spot on a tooth. So I had to visit a special clinic to get one X-ray picture. Having paid 5.000 pesos, some 2 euros, for that, I went back to the dentist. He checked the pic, and concluded it’s all ok.
Tuesday afternoon I had scheduled an appointment with another doctor – specialty in eye problems. For many years I have had some dust-like feeling in my eyes. An exam with all kinds of advanced instruments was charged with 50.000 pesos, some 19 euros. The result was a prescription for glasses, to wear occasionally when working long hours in front of the computer. In the same building I went shopping for glasses with anti-reflective poly-carbonate lenses and filter. That cost me 380.000 pesos, 141 euros. Compared to Spain that is said to be a bargain – I saved around 100 euros in Colombia.
Another interesting example from the health industry is the laser correction surgery of miopia, that my friend went thru Monday afternoon. She can now throw her lenses and glasses away. 1.900.000 pesos, some 704 euros was the price. Initial check, special exams and three after-controls included. In Spain this same surgery would have been charged with 4.000 euros! What is wrong in Europe, I wonder?
Now, it has to be said that the ordinary Colombian citizen usually can’t afford going to the doctor outside the social insurance system. Long waiting times and problems similar to those in Europe are well-known also here. But I cannot see anything wrong in using comparative cost advantages when I actually bring money into an economy that needs it. Medical tourism is growing: People from Sweden go to the dentist in Poland and get surgery in Thailand. U.S.-citizens travel to Colombia for advanced medical treatment.
So what’s my conclusion? I saved European tax money and got better doctors than I would have been able to get in Europe. And I had the exams now, and not maybe in three months. Finally, European doctors and dentists could learn something from Colombians on how to treat patients with respect. Did I ever see a doc in Sweden wear a tie? And wouldn’t it be time for European doctors to start smiling at work? Let me underline that this is a question of attitude – Colombian doctors smile even when they treat patients that are paid for by the government.