Preparing for a Medical Emergency in Costa Rica
Accidents happen without warning, and out of the seven Central American Countries to have one, Costa Rica is the best. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Costa Rica #36 on its World Health Ranking -- one above the United States. This also ranked them at #4 on the best in Latin America.
Furthermore, when having to handle a medical emergency in Costa Rica, you won’t suffer from bankruptcy, making it an actual destination for medical tourism. Costa Rica has private and public health care, and due to the tourism boom over the past 15 years, it has developed a top-notch support system within both.
911 Works Here
Reasons You may have a Medical Emergency
There are several reasons for medical emergencies: traffic accidents, pre-existing medical conditions, water accidents, assault. The list is never-ending. We will go over some of the most common in Costa Rica and help you prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Motorcycle tragedies fill 4% of deaths across the country because motorcycle accidents always carry more hazards due to less protection involved. Therefore, they are especially dangerous.
It is also a good idea to check the laws before operating any vehicles in Costa Rica because you will find most people do not follow them, and the Trafficos have zero patience for it. Knowing what to do in an accident can help you save a lot of time and pain.
Accidents in the water
If you are coming to Costa Rica, there is a 99.9% chance you are are going to be in a body of water. From lakes, rivers, and thermal pools, to both sides being surrounded by blue waters, Costa Rica doesn't fall short with water sports and fun. However, some hazards come with all these areas.
If you are bringing your family, be prepared. Find out where the police station is where ever you are going. Get emergency numbers and keep them in your fanny-pack so in case one of these unfortunate events happen, you will be more prepared.
When it comes to drowning, time is not on your side. If you can, you should touch up on some basic CPR before you and your family take the trip. As I say, it is better to know it and not use it than to need it and not know it.
There are also rare occasions of sharks and not so rare occurrences of jellyfish stings and rip tides. Keep updated with the marine life and tide schedule when traveling to Costa Rica, it’s part of the ecosystem, and the marine animals use the beaches as well. But, as I also say, they aren't hunting humans.
Assaults & Robberies
Assault can be due to robbery, sexual assault, and even domestic violence. Unfortunately, these things happen, and you should prepare to handle them, whether it’s for yourself or someone you know or by chance, don’t know.
The first thing anyone should do is find a safe place and call 911. Try to remember everything, especially every detail of the assailant.
If you do find yourself in such a situation, know that if you call 911, request an ambulance as well. They are supplied by the Costa Rican Red-Cross and are either free or low cost. It may be the safest way out of a situation as well, and it is documented.
Pre-existing Medical Conditions
We know that people aren't going to stay locked up just because they have medical conditions. What should you do then? We suggest familiarizing yourself with the hospitals and their locations in Costa Rica. Make sure that you are with at least a three month supply or any appropriate medications that you need. The Hospitals here are private and public, and they are affordable.
However, knowing where to get your medication in an emergency is very important. We are probably preaching to the choir on this subject, but a foreign country can present foreign challenges. Costa Rica is not a westernized country, and when it comes to medicines, they may not have what you need depending on what you suffer from. So, be prepared.
Costa Rica has some very qualified and affordable dentist. All of their materials come from the US and are FDA-approved. If you crack a tooth, get an abscess, or any other form of painful dental issue arises, you can find help fast.
People from all over the world come here to get dental work done. We assure you, you are in great hands when getting emergency dental work done in Costa Rica.
How to Get Help in a Medical Emergency
911! This is your first line of help in any medical situation. Not only does this alert the hospitals, but it also informs the proper authorities; Police (Pubica Fuerza), Transitos, all Red-Cross services that apply to the emergency you called for.
Once you have established the connection with 911, depending on the situation, get all information necessary for processing when the police arrive. Send someone to get paperwork if it is not on your person. Ask for help from anyone nearby if they are willing. You will find Costa Rica is full of people that are willing to help in most situations.
Below are a few numbers you can call for help and you can find more here.
Costa Rican Hospitals
There are small infirmaries, and private doctors sprinkled all over the country, and each town always has a local public health station, known as Ebais. These are a kind of local urgent care and primary care that is provided through the CCSS or Caja-- these are for locals and residents. However, in an emergency, if there is one close, they have Doctors and nurses on selected days.
Be aware that most private offices and some public hospitals will expect you to pay before you leave. Some hospitals and private doctors do, however, take outside insurance. Be sure to talk with your insurance company about setting this up or researching the best options for travel insurance.
Hospital MexicoUruca, San Jos -- 2232-6122
Located in the San Jose area, Hospital Mexico has a well-trained staff. Their access to equipment grows daily, and they are the best option for public emergency or life-threatening emergency care.
Hospital National de NiñosSan Jose -- 2222-0122
The Children’s hospital in Costa Rica is one of the best and part of the CCSS system. Costa Rica takes the lives and well being of children very seriously. When it comes to children from anywhere, my humble opinion, Costa Rica cannot be beaten for their no-nonsense approach to children’s healthcare and well being. They take it upon themselves to help pregnant mothers as well.
Centro Internacional de MedicinaSan Jose -- CR- 506-2208-1000 US- 1 (855) 782-6253
CIMA is the most modern private hospital available in Costa Rica. They opened their doors in 2000 and have become not only a top private hospital in Costa Rica but a destination for medical services from all over the world.
CIMA usually keeps its rates competitive while offering JCI accredited service standards and over 500 doctors and staff members. They re also a Baylor University affiliate, out of Texas. They also have a direct bill with the U.S Veterans of America Hospital System. Here is a list of other insurance companies they work with.
Hospital Clinica Metro Costa Rica SanJuan de Dios -- (506) 2521-9595
Hospital Rafael Ángel Calderón GuardiaSan Jose -- (506) 2212-1000
This is another CCSS public hospital and can be used for most any life-threatening accidents or emergencies. They are well equipped and have great staff.
You can find a list of numbers on the website.
Clinica Santa Rita San Jose -- (506) 2221-6433
Santa Rita Is a popular hospital for those looking for reconstructive or cosmetic surgery. They also hold a blood bank here and is a go-to for an extreme medical emergency.
This Hospital specializes in medical emergencies for women and maternity as well.
Hospital La Católica Guadelupe, San Jose -- (506) 2246-3000
Clinica Católica is a high-end private hospital that is gear toward tourists -- they even have a hotel attached. They specialize in maternity, cosmetic surgery, and medical tourism.
This clinic is self-sufficient and very affordable. They have multiple U.S. affiliations and are JCI accredited.
Clinica Biblica San Jose -- (506) 2522-1000
Clinica Biblica is another popular private hospital for its evergrowing technologies and space. They specialize in maternity-related issues and medical emergencies while still offering many other services. They successfully opened a new Dermatology and Spa Center first part of 2019 and hold the JCI accreditation. They are also part of the Medical Tourism Board.
If you are a resident, you have options through the CCSS and the private INS sector when medical emergencies arise. There is a scale for the Caja payments that is based on income, but it still is a small fee for having access to medical assistance throughout the country, no matter what.
In the Annual Global Retirement Index, Costa Rica was ranked third for the title ”Best Healthcare in the World” for 2020. Countries were chosen based on multiple criteria: availability, insurance options, and quality, according to the Costa Rican Star.
Most countries also have essential information on their embassy websites. The US Embassy has an updated list of the private and public Costa Rica hospitals here.
Here are some other common visiting countries embassy sites:
You can usually get in contact with your family by contacting the embassy and the Red Cross in extreme medical cases. Consulates mediate situations for those in the US when these situations arise as well as some other countries. Important to note; always keep your passport or copies safe so you can be identified.
Be safe when traveling, and always be prepared for the good and the bad. You can help develop and design your trip to Costa Rica on the InCostaRica App. It has a collection of the best dentist, doctors, hospitals, and deals. You’ll save money and feel secure by knowing that everything is within your reach.