L-R: Dra. Lucia Ávila, Premier Dr. Ellis Webster, Maria Cecilia Aponte,Theodoro Constantinau and Fernando Duarte
Panama from the newly constructed state-of-the-art Panama Clinic were on island this week to promote medical services provided at the clinic, and to encourage patients in Anguilla to utilise those healthcare services.In a special meeting with the press corps, a team of representatives from the International Division of the Panama Clinic, led by the owner and CEO, Mr. Theodoro Constantinau, presented a comprehensive overview of the medical programme and answered questions posed by the media present.
Mr. Fernando Duarte, International Operations Coordinator, presented logistical information about the clinic:
“The Panama Clinic is a hospital inside a complex which has four components to it – the main component, which is the hospital itself; a Mariot Residence Hotel for living accommodations; a commercial centre which includes a shopping centre and cinema for convenience and entertainment; and a food court with restaurants.
“Each hotel room is fully equipped with its own kitchenette to accommodate persons desirous of preparing their own meals, and have access to normal household amenities during their stay at the clinic. The fridge can be stocked with groceries before a patient arrives, if that service is desired or requested.”
The team described the clinic itself as a multi-story modern fit-for-purpose building with a garden in the centre, ICU rooms affording an ocean view, and chapels of different religions – all intended to aid in the healing process. The clinic is a fourth level 77-bed medical centre with awesome new technologies and medical equipment, as well as 12 ICUs and 14 operating rooms for high complexity operations – including transplants and highly technical robotic diagnosis and surgery.
The clinic is staffed with about 400 medical officers with specialities in the medical sector.
Dr. Maria Aponte, International Business Manager, explained her role in the Panama Clinic operation.
She noted: “My role is to make sure that the international patient feels safe, comfortable and at home. The international department is devoted to the patients and their companions from the moment they arrive at they airport until the leave.
“As soon as they come out of the gate, there will be an assigned case manager inside waiting for them, speaking in their language, accompanying them through a fast track of the immigration, helping them with their luggage and taking them to a special bus from the Panama Clinic ready to take them to the Mariot Hotel and get them settled in.
“Because we receive a personal profile for each patient – medical, social, spiritual – the case manager assigned to the patient can buy groceries and put them in the fridge ahead of your arrival if that is preferred. The case manager will also take the patient through all the administrative processes, and will accompany the patient to all the medical processes during their entire stay at the Panama Clinic. All the medical procedures and processes are carried out inside the compound – specialist services, pathology, etc.”
The international team is divided into two parts – a medical part and a logistics part.
Dr. Lucia Avila, International Business Manager, is responsible for the medical side of the patient’s stay at the Panama Clinic. This sector provides the reports in the patient’s language, for the patient as well as the insurance carriers. It also provides all the information a patient requests or needs in answer to their questions.
Mr Fernando Duarte, International Operations Coordinator, coordinates the logistics, personal celebrations and invoices. This sector serves as a “family” to patients. It helps patients celebrate important events and special days that might occur during their stay at the clinic, but would have been celebrated if they were at their home. These would include events such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
At the end of the patient’s stay at the clinic, the logistics sector meets with the patient to discuss the whole experience, and hear from the patient as well as their companions.
The Panama Clinic has been in operation since January 2020, and receives patients from around the world. Its current clientele includes patients from the US, Canada, South and Central America – and from the Caribbean Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten, as well as from many cruise ships. Of course, not all patients are seeking emergency or speciality care, and not all patients are referred by their primary care physician. Some patients choose to access diagnostic and preventive medical care at the clinic as well.
The business manager, Dr Maria Aponte, noted that the cost of patient care at the clinic is 30-40% lower than the US, but also admitted that it is a little costlier than services offered in Colombia. She also noted: “Sometimes it is not only a matter of price, but a matter of other things – of security, of feeling comfortable, of having everything integrated, meaning that, everything is done inside the same complex. These are some of the other things that people take into account before coming to another country.”
She indicated that access to Panama is a fairly easy process, in that one does not have to be COVID-19 vaccinated to enter the country – one needs only to have a negative PCR test and, starting in July, persons will be able to have direct airlift between St. Martin and Panama on the COPA airline.
Premier and Minister of Health, Dr. Ellis Webster, expressed gratitude to local physician – Dr. Patvins Adams – for having confidence in the Panama Clinic and the international team, and in his government as an entity that would be willing to work with this type of facility.
He said: “Anguilla’s interest is to have access to good secondary and tertiary care, and this is another option… It seems to be a more modern centre with high quality care, and more of the services that would be needed.
“I am very impressed with the centre as I have been told about it. I am sure we will get more information on the quality of care, and how they deal with any type of complications and morbidity.
“We definitely would be willing to do some kind of a partnership with the Panama Clinic, but we would need to see what the prices are in hard numbers for comparison – do they offer packages in terms of full work-ups or are services done line-by-line?
“I think that this is good that they have come to Anguilla to let us know what they have to offer. My impression is that the centre would be one that we could certainly do business with.”