Learning Uruguay

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Preparing for an operation at the Espanola in Uruguay

Posted by urufish on January 5, 2009



Last month, my wife was told she needed some surgery done.   Our medical provider is Espanola.  She started the process in early December.  Last week, she was given a surgery date of January 7.  Here are the things we learned about this process.

Like Canada, the patient visits a few doctors before the surgery can be booked.   If you have any cardio condition like HBP, you need clearnace from a cardiologist.  Then you get to go back to your specialist.  He approves the surgery and you get to meet with the anaesthesiologist.  Assuming he approves, you go the hospital and they give you a date.

It turns out, my wife signed us up for ward coverage.  We’ve always had semi-private in Canada so we went to Espanola to upgrade.   Because a family member is usually present 24/7 when someone is incapable of looking after themselves, we decided to pay for a private room so I could stay with her.  Up north, we can pay for a surcharge for a private room.   Here, it works a little different.  The ‘private room’ surcharge is equivalent to the yearly fee for the option, plus any months remaining in the current year.   The cost at Espanola is UYU12,034  for one year of the private option.  Plus we signed up for autodebit of UYU1,003 per month so she would maintain the priviledge now that I know what’s involved.

The hospital asked her for her antitetanus vaccination.   Being a Uruguayan, she didn’t have to go through the vaccination when we moved here and frankly, she couldn’t remember the last time she ever got a shot.  So they treated her like a newbie, gave her a shot and told her to come back in a month for #2. 

The last hurdle was the blood donation.  At Espanola, if you go for surgery, you or someone else must make a donation in your name or you do NOT get the operation.  You must prove this the day you are admitted.  I found this out last Friday, so today I presented myself as her donor.  But guess what?  They refused me because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish.  They said unless I was fluent, I couldn’t answer the questionaire accurately.  My wife offered to translate, but they said it was a privacy issue and she could not translate for me.  They gave us a form that said I was refused which allows her to book the surgery Wednesday, but we were warned if she came back Wednesday morning without a certificate saying blood was donated in her name, she’d be refused entry. 

We thought this was a minor issue since she has a large family and several of them had volunteered to give blood when they found out she was going to have the surgery.  We came home and called around the family but one after the other couldn’t qualify.  Both of her nephews recently had tattoo’s.  You must wait 6 months after a tattoo before you can give blood.  Another family member was just diagnosed with anemia.  Finally, one of her nieces came to the rescue.  She lives in Maldonado, but she said she’d take the bus into Montevideo tomorrow morning.  But guess what?  Tomorrow is King’s day.  Espanola blood donation isn’t open tomorrow. 

So now it’s down to the wire.  The niece has to arrive here in Montevideo at 9am to give blood so my wife can be admitted at 10am. 

In fairness to Espanola, when they discovered I wasn’t qualified, they told my wife to go to any police or fire station and ask for a volunteer.  If a member of the public service donates blood for someone, they get a paid day off.  Apparently, it’s very common to do this. 

Let’s hope the buses dont go on strike Wednesday morning (or the doctors for that matter).


2 Responses to “Preparing for an operation at the Espanola in Uruguay”

  1. Shirley said

    I assume she was able to have the operation, and I hope it went well! Best wishes to herfor a positive outcome and a swift and comfortable recovery.

    Does the requirement to donate blood before having an operation apply with all the mutualistas, or only some?

  2. urufish said

    My understanding is that this is common practice for any surgery done in Uruguay. Even in a public hospital. That’s probably why the public service has the day off perk for giving blood. I’m sure there are many folks who dont have a donor readily avaialble and this would be an unreasonable burden if a simple alternative wasn’t provided.
    My wife’s cousin said that they wont actually cancel the surgery if you dont present the donor card but somehow or other, you have to produce it before you’re released.

    BTW, the donation has nothing to do with how much blood you actually use. This is probably made up for by the many surgeries that dont use blood at all.

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