Curtis Cole, Corvallis, OR USA asks:
When I found your website about 2 months ago, I quickly got caught up on
the adventure. What a wonderful adventure!
I am currently in the middle of a career change, and am attending PA
Medical School. My question is about medical care. What kind is available
to the cruising community? I have several friends who own Nordhavns, plan
to join the "life" ASAP, and would like to run sort of a mobile medical
clinic (to subsidize the need to return to the life of a "dirt
dweller"). I would love to hear both of your insight on this. If you're
still living the life in Aug. 2009 when I get out of school, I would love
to come for a visit. Thank you in advance.
Scott Flanders from Egret responds:
Curtis, very good question. I will give you our opinion based on our
limited experience. In the Med, medical care is first class and inexpensive
compared to the States. I had quality dental work done, visited a
dermatologist twice (better than my experience in the States) and had a post
Lasic eye growth scraped. All were done by English speaking (as a second
language) doctors and the results were perfect.
The only other experience we have is here in Ushuaia, Argentina. A friend
had his wife's illness treated in Ushuaia with very less than satisfactory
results. He felt the doctors were adequate but the nurses were hopeless.
He practically lived in the hospital during her stays making sure the
medications and so forth were correct. In the end she passed. I won't
speculate there. A second case just happened. A British friend on a
private sailboat was diagnosed here (Ushuaia) with a hernia. They were
going to treat it with a patch. In the end he decided to go back to England
where relatives could take care of him post surgery. He was found to have
serious stomach cancer. A bit of a different diagnosis.
Like everywhere it boils down to the individual doctor, training and so
forth. Probably in Buenos Aires you can find first class treatment. In
equatorial areas local doctors treating local maladies are probably better
than the States working with tropical diseases every day.
We have never heard of a doctor having a mobile clinic aboard a boat. We're
not saying it can't be done. In long distance cruising we seldom have the
general local population aboard the boat. Not a good idea. Special people,
of course. What quite a few doctors do is work ashore in a clinic, or set
up a clinic and work on a voluntary basis to serve the community they are
visiting (third world countries). Mary is a pediatric physical therapist.
She has helped a number of cruisers and locals as well, all for free. We
wouldn't consider charging.
We weekended in the Fla Keys for many years. There was a semi local, 6
months on - 6 months off doctor/fisherman living nearby. He and a group of
like minded physicians formed a group to give first world medical treatment
to a number of small N Colorado and Wyoming towns. They promised full time
proper doctors but not necessarily the same one. That group is able to make
a reasonable living and still pursue what ever passions they enjoy 6 months
a year. The bottom line here is make money where you can make good money,
THEN cruise. Few long distance cruisers have the ability to pay Stateside
fees or insurance to cover Stateside fees. Fewer still would, unless there
was virtually no alternative (just my opinion).
Bottom line: You are in charge of your well being, not someone who gives
you 5 minutes personal time a year. If you feel a trip back to the States
is prudent, so be it. However, I wouldn't give foreign doctors,
particularly in larger population centers, an automatic pass. We feel,
unless it is life threatening, we'll use local doctors in our travels. If
it is life threatening and immediacy is an issue Diver Dan offers an air
evacuation insurance for about $50 a year or less (www.diverdan.com). This
is a non profit organization initially set up for divers but now includes we
cruisers as well. As a back up we both carry very high credit card limits
to use in an emergency.