Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????


Posted by urufish on September 23, 2007


SUAT, (http://www.suat.com.uy/index.asp) is one of the many medical care providers here in Uruguay.  Not sure if it’s a private company or a mutualista.  It looks like a private operation.  When we came here, we joined Espanola…  But we were told to also join something like SUAT, because it provides ambulance service. 

I never thought much about ambulance service back home.  In Ontario, all medical comes under one umbrella… government run.  Here, it’s all private.  It wasn’t expensive, so we took it on.  I think it’s billed with the Espanola invoices.  They’re connected somehow. 

Anyway, my wife took quite ill a couple of weeks ago with a bad chest cold which quickly became pneumonia.  Nothing threatening, but definitely a pain.  Always the faithful, dutiful husband, I followed her a couple of days later.  My course followed a different path but by yesterday 3am, I felt it was time I turned this over to the professionals.

She had gone to Espanola emergency, which did a very effective job on her.  They’ve got this big room for people with respiratory problems.  Something called ‘nebuliosa’ or something like that.  There were respirators all up and down the walls.  You went in there, someone brought over what looks like a small oxygen mask, hooks it up the wall, it’s got medication in it, and everyone sits in the room, staring at each other and breathing through these things.  First thing that came in to my mind:  David Cronenberg 🙂

They also senther  for an xray.  At the end, theyIV’d her with antibiotics,  prescribed 2 extra strength antibiotics and sent her home.   A few days later, she was back to see a ‘pneumologist’ who prescribed a ton more tests.. which are still ongoing. 

Today, I just didn’t feel like going to Hotel Espanola (it’s big – like a hospital back home).  I felt like going to a smaller, more intimate place… like our walkin clinics back up north.  That’s when I decided why not go to SUAT.  SUAT provides the same services that Espanola does, for considerably less money (not that it matters).  But more importantly, they’ve got a local walkin clinic 3 blocks from where we live.  So my wife (translator) bundled me up and off we went this morning.

The place was just remodeled.  Looks like a fancy walkin clinic from back home.  I was taken right away.. no waiting.  Saturday mornings are good like that here.  Sunday mornings too.  The nurse spoke perfect English.  She’d lived 7 years in New Jersey before coming back to Uruguay..  She missed the place.  The doctor also spoke perfect English.  He had lived here all his life but his parent sent to english school. 

They dont have that wall of respirators like Espanola does.  They have portable ones.  They stuck a big pipe in my mouth and told me to breathe deeply and hold it for a minute.  At 15 seconds, they told me to let the air out.  Said I was turning blue 🙂

Anyway, they sent me home with a puffer, Ventolin, the same one I had back home once or twice.  For good measure, they put me in Moxifar Plus… some tradename for amoxicillin.   My wife was on 500mg.  I’m on 125mg.  Guess I’m not in as rough shape. 

It was a pleasant experience all in all, less than 30 minutes from leaving the house to getting back.  Add another 10 minutes for walking to the end of my block, picking up the medication and walking back home. 

Definitely, a very civilized place for every day health care. 


7 Responses to “SUAT”

  1. JP said

    Why Canadians are running away of their universal medicare and prefer to live outside Canada and pay private insurance?

    I am sorry about your wife health. Send her my regards and my desire for you two to get better.

  2. urufish said

    Universal medicare, like communism, is a noble idea. The problem with it, like communism, is what happens to it when you put the idea into practice.

    In the beginning, it’s great. But after time, like most government managed institutions, it becomes self serving, suffers underfunding and ends up not living up to the expectations of the middle class–the class that pays for most of it.

    I grew up with social medicare. When I was a student, unemployed, my card was provided to me free. When I went to work, I had the fees deducted from my salary. Sometime later on, the government had employers pay for it directly. In Ontario today, all medical fees are paid for by corporations, based on a set fee per employee.

    The Ontario system isn’t bad. Emergency service in hospitals in big cities is often a lengthy wait. If you’re in need of immedite medical assistance, you get it. But if you go to an emergency room at 7pm with a broken arm, you may find yourself waiting 3-5 hours before you’re seen. The facilities are often overcrowded. In smaller communities, there is a shortage of physicians. Some areas dont have a doctor at all.

    Because doctors have a salary based ‘cap’ system, when they reach the ‘cap’, the tax on their income after that point is so high that many of them stop working. One of my doctors would stop midway through the year and take off for Uzbekistan to donate his time there. My best guess is that is rare. The doctors I knew simply balanced their practice with golf, to make up the time.

    Universal health care is not compulsory for doctors. They can ‘opt’ out of the system and work totally in the private sector. All the doctors who practice cosmetic surgery and other services considered by the government as unnecessary to basic health are outside the system. Tummy tucks, face lifts and reconstructive dental aren’t covered by universal health care, unless they’re considered life threatening.

    Long delays for surgeries and procedures like cancer treatment are common now in Ontario and have been for several years.

    There is a new wave of health care reform being debated now in Canada in at least 2 provinces. Alberta and Ontario. Albertans, flush with cash from the oil patch, want to have private and public services work side by side, delivering the same services. Opponents to this say that this will ‘gut’ the public system. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the best doctors, nurses, etc., will be woo’d (or run) to the private system. No doubt it will pay significantly more to those professionals, better facilties, better hours, etc.

    Personally, I find the system here very similar. Costs in Ontario for a family of 3, like mine, would be similar… Except there, the companies pay. Here we pay. But if I were working, one could argue it was the same. The difference in pricing comes in with larger families. Ontario is based on one fee per family, regardless of size. Here you pay by the person (in private service). At Espanola, our rates are UYP4500/month, including SUAT (24 hour ambulance and ‘to the door’ doctor service). My friends in the US would consider that a bargain.

    The facilities here are very, very similar to those in Ontario. Our hospitals are also in need of a new paint job and I’ve been to hospitals in the Toronto area with holes in the wall and blistering paint, just like Espanola. But the quality of the professionals, the nurses and the doctors, I find very similar. Except that here, they have more time for you, the patient. There’s more social interaction. Definitely more compassion.

    Fortunately, we have never had need of any kind of super fancy or expensive equipment for which northern medical care probably has the edge. The Xray equipment used at the Espanola (some of it) is definitely 50’s/60’s. But the x-rays look the same to me.

    Apples to apples, I dont see a difference between the systems.

  3. la vieja said

    Hi Fish,
    Sorry to hear you and Delia have been under the weather. We are in the midst of our first real test of the Uruguayan medical system. Not the payment end, as we are still paying cash up front, but a closer look at the operations and service delivery. Chuck had an emergency hospitalization for diabetes related foot issues. He was at immediate risk of amputation. We were seen by an endocrinologist who rushed him to the ER of arguably Uy’s worst non-charity hospital. The physical plant would have been cause for immediate closure in the US (NOT an exageration!) with absolutely no regards to aseptic technique etc etc. The MEDICAL care and availability of diagnostic services however was up to the minute. The doctors were not only current clinically but humane. They took time with the patient. The quality of “nursing” care is another matter entirely. During this 4 day stay there were more medication errors and faults in technique, lack of cleanliness, carelessness and failure to respond to patient needs than I witnessed in my entire 45 year clinical career! Per the docs with whom I discussed this matter, this is the result of nurses seeking out of country employment secondary to the nursing shortages worldwide. I lived in the hospital during the entire admission which is the norm as the patient may otherwise die unnoticed!!

  4. urufish said

    I’m pretty sure I’ve been to that hospital maddie. When I met Delia, her mother was married to a nice guy who had pancreatic cancer. By the time I was ready to go home, he’d been hospitalized (he never got out). I went to see him and was struck by debris on the floor which, horrors, included discarded bandages… Staff wore filthy running shoes.. gurneys were covered in soiled sheets.. It was disgusting. And just like you stated, in the middle of all of this mess, were very competent and caring doctors.
    You lived here so you should know the deal with nursing. It’s not just that they’ve left for better paying jobs. It’s the patient’s responsibility to provide 24/7 care, and that usually includes food and bedding.
    Perhaps the top hospitals provide these facilities, but none are used by my circle of friends or family.

  5. gaberoo said

    Sorry about the health problems you and your wife are suffering through…I hope they pass quickly.

  6. urufish said

    Mine is going away nicely. But my poor, unlucky wife picked up a strep throat. Probably from being rundown. So she’s on a second, but this time, shorter course of antibiotics.

  7. gaberoo said

    Here’s an excerpt (in Spanish so please bear with) from a recent letter from a friend of mine in Uruguay:

    Lo más destacado de acá esta semana fué el conflicto en el hospital
    Pereira Rossel, el hospital pediátrico. Es tan desastrosa la situación
    del hospital, que renunciaron todos los anestesistas. El gobierno
    amenazó con suspenderles los títulos e iniciar juicio si no retiraban
    las renuncias, pero entre hoy de noche y mañana de mañana presentarán
    renuncia todos los cirujanos. Y ya se habla de que si el gobierno no
    da marcha atrás, también renuncian los pediatras (esto último no tiene

    This is the type of thing I got a little tired of when I lived there: huelga, huelga, y mas huelga (huelga=paro=strike). They make the recent G.M. talks (management vs UAW regarding healthcare issues)look like child’s play. I wish there was more consensus among the different sectors of society in Uruguay (it would make everyone’s life better).

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