Seeing Colombian Doctors in Santa Marta

Red Cross in Santa Marta, Colombia

I had a ‘Yellow Fever Vaccination’ from Red Cross in Santa Marta, Colombia. It was ‘Gratis’ (Free).

We don’t carry health insurance as good US health insurance is very expensive and we are away from the US while living and traveling overseas. When necessary, we see a doctor or a dentist in whatever country we happen to be in.

One of our plans during our stay in Colombia was to do our physical exams. After arriving in Colombia, I looked for an English speaking doctor in Santa Marta. Either because Santa Marta is a small city; or I am too new in the city, I was not able to find any English speaking doctors. This was very unexpected.

Medical Service List in Profamilia Clinic

Medical Service List in Profamilia Clinic

Since pharmacies are all over town, I stopped at several local pharmacists asking for a general doctor who can speak English. A pharmacist took me to a doctor’s office. The office lady and the doctor spoke no English. My Spanish is limited so I gave my notes written in English to the doctor. After some struggles in Spanish and also showing my notes in English, I got prescriptions for lab work and also a prescription for some medication.

Small Medical Lab Near Santa Marta Marina

Small Medical Lab Near Santa Marta Marina

It cost 40,000 Pesos ($13) for three different kinds of lab work. The lady in the lab emphasized that I need to ‘Ayuna’ before I revisit her for blood work. It took a while for me to understand the Spanish word ‘Ayuna’ (Fasting). She wasn’t sure if I understood her instructions completely so she wrote the details in Spanish. When I had a Wi-Fi connection, I looked up her notes in ‘Google Translator’. She patiently and clearly delivered me all her messages in Spanish.

Radiologist Office

Radiologist Office

Unlike finding an English speaking doctor, finding an English speaking dentist was not a problem. Dental offices are all over town. The dentist I saw did all my work without an assistant and also cleaned my teeth. Since I wanted to check all of my teeth, I got a prescription for a panoramic view dental X-Ray. With an address, I went to an imaging center and got it done in 10 minutes. Result is a piece of X-Ray film of all my teeth. It cost 40,000 Pesos ($13). Awesome! When I went to back to the dentist office, he already had the X-Ray as the imaging center emailed him the file.

Walk-in Lab

Walk-in Lab

If I had known about the language issue, I would have done all this in Curacao (our last stop before Colombia) where doctors speak English. Curacao is a small island and has limited facilities but Colombia is a big country though. Practicing Spanish speaking by talking about health issues with a doctor is not the right way but I admit that it made me study! John and I believe a language problem won’t exist in the future (maybe in 50 years from now) because by then everybody will have wireless implants (?) to connect to the web.

*** Medical Expenses We Paid in Santa Marta in September 2015 ***

  • General Doctor Consultation (Private Practice): 50,000 Pesos (About $17)
  • Internal Medicine Doctor Consultation (at Clinic): 60,000 Pesos (About $20)
  • Specialist Doctor Consultation (at Clinic): 51,000 Pesos (About $17)
  • Dermatologist (at Clinic): 50,000 Pesos (About $17)
  • Orthopedic Specialist (Private Practice): 180,000 Pesos (About $60)
  • Dental Consultation and Fixing Two Front Teeth (Cosmetic): 300,000 Pesos (About $100)
  • Digital X-Ray (Full Teeth Panoramic Imaging): 25,000 Pesos (About $8)
  • A Specific Tooth X-Ray: 12,000 Pesos (About $4)
  • Teeth Cleaning: 120,000 Pesos (About $40)
  • Lab Work (Blood, Urine, and Test): 40,000 Pesos (About $13)
  • Pap Smear: 40,000 Pesos (About $13)
  • Abdominal Ultrasound Test: 80,000 Pesos (About $27)
  • Yellow Fever Vaccination: (FREE from Red Cross in Santa Marta)
  • *** Medical Expenses for Cat ***

  • Cat Dental Cleaning: 80,000 Pesos (About $27)
  • Cat Health Exam: 30,000 Pesos (About $10)
  • Cat Blood Test: 25,000 Pesos (About $8)
  • In the US we would have paid four or five times this amount and it would have involved time and appointments etc. In Colombia, you just show up and they see you, or they tell you to come back the next morning. If we had been able to speak great Spanish, then this all would have been an easy experience. I wonder what happens if we need a doctor in Zimbabwe or Somalia?

    Posted in Caribbean Islands, Medical Service Experiences, South America