Ecuador Medical Insurance
The Republic of Ecuador, named after its position near the Equator, is a relatively small country located in the northwestern region of South America. The country shares its borders with Colombia in the north and Peru in the southeast. Ecuador has two populated cities, Guayaquil and the capital city, Quito. The country has a population of over 13.8 million people, with 60 per cent living in urban areas. It has an area of 283,560 square kilometers, including the Galapagos Islands situated 912 kilometers offshore from Ecuador.
Ecuador's health care facilities can be divided into the public and private sector. Private health care facilities are adequate in Ecuador's major cities of Guayaquil and Quito. Due to the increasing expat population and the general demand of quality health care services in the country, urban areas of the country have built more private hospitals over the last decade. Trained doctors and adequate medical facilities are available within private hospitals in urban areas of Ecuador. Private health care facilities are considered to be on par with international standards. Ecuador's public healthcare system, on the other hand, has been experiencing challenges due to lack of government funding in the past. There is a dangerous shortage of staff, medicine and hospital equipment in the public health care system, although following a large increase in Government health care spending in recent years, the situation is likely to improve.
In Quito, there are three large private hospitals, including the Metropolitano, Militar and the Voz Andes. Private hospitals in Guayaquil include the General Private Hospital and the Hospital Clinic Kennedy. There are also a group of private medical clinics in Ecuador where expats can see a Doctor, receive diagnostic services, vaccinations and referral for specialist treatment. In Quito there is the Americana Adventista; International Clinic; Women's Clinics (Clínica de la Mujer); San Francisco; Santa Lucia; Emergency Clinic (De Emergencias); and the Nova Clínica Santa Cecilia. In Guayaquil, there is the Clinic Alciva, Clinic Guayaquil, Clinic Idrobo, Clinic Kennedy, and the Clinic Moderna.
Private hospitals and medical clinics are very expensive in Ecuador, as like other private health care facilities across the globe. By law, all hospitals in Ecuador must service patients in the event of an emergency. Patients will be held liable for the hospital bill until a letter of guarantee is received by the health insurance company. Otherwise, patients can pay using credit card or cash. In Ecuador, hospital accommodation ranges between $USD250 to USD$1,000 on average, although depending on circumstances and treatment received, the price varies accordingly. As such, expats in Ecuador are strongly encouraged to obtain some form of health care plan that will cover you in Ecuador, to ensure ease of access to medical services.
There are some areas in Ecuador that are remote and have limited access to medical facilities including the Galapagos Islands and national parks, locations that expats particularly like to explore in their leisure time. In the case of a serious medical illness or accident, emergency air evacuation to Guayaquil or Quito will be required, so that the adequate level of medical care can be received. Expats are recommended to attend private healthcare facilities during a serious emergency situation, to avoid any limitations in medicine or medical equipment. Expats can contact AIRMED Ecuador, an emergency evacuation company available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Operating from Guayaquil and Quito, AIRMED Ecuador not only stabilizes health, it services expats by providing repatriation and air transportation to hospitals within Ecuador and overseas. AIRMED Ecuador is equipped with highly trained staff and adequate facilities.
Air emergency evacuation within Ecuador or an overseas destination is highly expensive, especially in addition to the costs to cover medical expenses including hospital accommodation and medical procedures, particularly at a private hospital facility. As such, expats living in Ecuador are highly recommended to obtain an Ecuador medical insurance plan, that includes emergency air evacuation and repatriation services.
In 2007, Ecuador's public healthcare system was transformed into a fully subsidized entity, funded entirely by the Government. Although the system is now affordable, shortages continue and hospitals stocks run out. Patients are still paying out of pocket as they often have to purchase their own medications from elsewhere. When President Correa came into parliament in 2006, healthcare spending dramatically increased with the aim to recruit more hospital staff and fully supply hospitals with medicine. In turn, we can expect to see improvement in years to come.
It is common for public health systems to endure long waiting lists, however public patients in Ecuador are literally lining up outside hospital entrances in the morning from as early as 3am. Of the 8 main public hospitals in Ecuador, there’s around 4,500 people on waiting lists for surgery and the bed occupancy rate is between 98 and 104 percent. Although doctors in the public healthcare system are generally adequate, waiting lists are dangerously long and the English speaking skills of staff may provide barriers to receiving the appropriate level of care.
Ecuador also experiences volcanic eruptions from time to time, including the Tungurahua in 2010, Sangay and the Reventador in 2007, and the Guagua Pichincha in 2004. The eruption in Tungurahua resulted in the evacuation of villages, and closing of the airport and public schools in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil. In the case of a volcanic eruption, expats should adopt emergency evacuation procedures in order to reduce the risk of injury. Volcanic ash can cause irritation to airways, resulting in various ear, nose and throat related symptoms. It is recommended to wear a protective face mask to reduce the inhalation of ash particles. Expats who suffer from asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory conditions should seek medical care if their symptoms are exacerbated.
Typhoid Fever is prevalent in Ecuador, a serious condition that can be life threatening. The illness is caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria, transmitted via food and water and resulting in flu like symptoms. Vaccination against Typhoid is recommended, as well as practicing safe eating and drinking precautions, and washing hands often.
Mosquito borne diseases are present in the humid coastal regions and the lowland jungle areas of Ecuador, including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Malaria. Dengue Fever outbreak that occurred in 2010 resulted in more than 4,000 cases and 4 deaths. It is therefore important to carry out safety precautions while visiting these affected areas by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeved clothing, and using mosquito nets during the night. A vaccination for Yellow Fever is also recommended. Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Malaria present with flu like symptoms and very high fevers. Immediate medical attention is required to treat these potentially life threatening conditions and to prevent further deterioration.
Emergency protocols must be adopted by expats living in Ecuador during the event of a serious accident, illness or criminal offense. To contact an ambulance service in Ecuador dial 9-1-1; police service dial 1-0-1; fire brigade service dial 1-0-2.