A recent downturn in my health has brought me into very close contact with the CAJA system, and more accurately, the system in Hospital Calderon Guardia, the second largest CAJA hospital in Costa Rica.
There are two types of health care here, public (the CAJA) and private. If you are here in country with your (legal) residency, you may join CAJA for almost nothing. Very cheap insurance indeed. The private system is far more expensive but costs can be covered by buying any number of international insurance poiicies or by using your friendly, local monopoly, the INS.
So what do Tiger Woods and a lab worker in CAJA have in common?
Pharmacies in Costa Rica are quite different than those you find in North America. A regente or pharmacist runs each pharmacy. Most, if not all, also have their doctorate. They can provide a lot of help in choosing medicines and providing good advice.
The services are quite different. You can get an injection or you can buy a pill. Yeah… one pill… or 6… or 11. Many people here cannot afford a whole bottle, so they can buy just what they need for 1 or 2 days, then return to buy more if needed.
One of the good… or bad… things about a Costa Rican drugstore (aka droguería but far more common in Costa Rica, farmacia) is that you can also buy just about any prescription drug you want without a prescription.
While this seems like a great deal, and maybe it is, when a person makes the decision to self-medicate, to buy a prescription drug without a physician’s advice, the burden of making the correct decision is removed from the hands of the doctor and placed squarely in the hands of the person buying that prescription.