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Sunday, August 25 2019 @ 11:30 pm EDT

Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro

Expat TalesA 62-year Dutch woman died Monday while enjoying the waters of Cayo Coral in Bocas del Toro. She apparently had a heart attack. Her husband and other people who were with the woman, who were doctors, tried to keep her alive until they could reach the pier of the Fire Department on Isla Colon, and from there she was taken by an ambulance of the Ministry of Health to the hospital, but unfortunately she passed away. (Source: La Critica)

Editor's Comment: Emergency medical services, and in particular ambulances and medical evacuation services, are extremely lacking throughout the entire Republic of Panama. Even if you had a heart attack in the middle of downtown Panama City, your chances of quickly receiving efficient and effective emergency care - sufficient enough to keep you alive until you can get to an Emergency Room or an operating table - are slim. If you like to get off of the beaten path, remember your trip to a hospital in case of an emergency or accident will most likely mirror what you had to do to get there in the first place. If that means three hours in a 4x4 followed by two hours on a horse, then try that in reverse with a broken ankle. There is no helicopter medical evacuation capability in this country. Just remember, everything is perfectly fine until it all goes to shit. Our heartfelt condolences to the friends and family members of this Dutch woman who died in Bocas del Toro.

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Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 17 2010 @ 07:17 pm EST

Panama HAD a fully capable helicopter MEDEVAC service available with Lifeflight. What genius in the government drove them out by refusing to allow them to operate in Albrook or in Howard? Was it because it was a great idea and a foreign company was going implement it? In a country this small care would only be minutes away...I know it's tradition to throw abuela in the back seat and take her for an hour drive to a clinic that will pronounce her DOA...but it's time to break with tradition.. a heliborne MEDEVAC is long overdue..c'mon Sr. Martinelli...Ahora la Toca del Pueblo

Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 18 2010 @ 11:20 am EST

Are we sure this woman would have survived the heart attack if she had been in the Netherlands instead of Panama? People die of heart attacks every day everywhere, even in Holland.

Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 18 2010 @ 12:07 pm EST
She may have died in the Netherlands true enough. But at least in the Netherlands she would have had a better chance at survival. So champ do you think that just because someone could have died anyways is an excuse for a lack of proper medical evacuation? In my short 20 years in the Army I was assigned to two different Helicopter MEDEVAC Units and believe me they save lives. Panama once had a Air Ambulance service provided by the United States Army out of Howard/Kobbe from the 214th [Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance)]. They provided MAST (Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic) throughout Panama, yes including Panamanians.
"forget the truck. Everybody can buy a truck."
Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 18 2010 @ 04:38 pm EST

while living in bocas town, i spent over 4 years warning as many potential 'investors' or other ignorant people planning to make the big move to the '2nd best place to retire in the entire world' (!), that if they plan on having a heart attack, stroke, have an unfortunate accident of any kind which will require medical care, etc... NOT to expect anything more than 3rd world care at the 'hospital' in bocas. (toilet paper and soap are not even supplied!). not to mention, there is NO expedient transport to the mainland, in case of an emergency. most importantly, absolutely NO transport after dark.
the only training and/or experience at the bocas hospital is applying band-aids to machete wounds, and knowing how to pop out babies by the dozens. certainly not suggesting anyone come to this 'tropical luxury island' to give birth, either!
can't wait for the buyers of million $ 'zero carbon footprint developments' or 'international private yacht clubs' to discover this, amongst the total lack of any and all other infrastructure, after the fact.
oh, don't forget to pack your snake bite kit when you come to bocas...

Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 19 2010 @ 12:09 am EST

And exactly how many people died of a heart attack in Bocas before anybody took notice of the 3rd world medical service. I guess it took the death of a Dutch citizen for people to get all worked up.

Dutch Woman Dies of Heart Attack in Bocas del Toro
Authored by: susangg on Friday, February 19 2010 @ 10:02 am EST

Bocas del Toro is an adventure and eco-tourism destination. People come here because it is remote and undeveloped. Most adventure travelers know that their destinations of choice do not come with immediately available sophisticated health care.
There is nothing unique about Panama, with respect to the fact that if you are in a remote location, you do not have immediate access to quality health care. Its pretty much the same in any remote, adventure travel location, whether its snorkeling in an island in Bocas del Toro, climbing a Mayan ruin in Tikal, Guatemala, or river rafting in the high sierras in California. People who go to these places are usually healthy or if they know they're not, they're willing to take the chance. The fact is, if you have a major heart attack or a serious stroke anywhere outside a major metropolitan area, you are very likely to die, no matter where you are.
And it can happen to any of us, even if we think we are healthy. This unfortunate tourist probably was healthy, as far as she knew. Or if she had a heart problem and was aware of it, she probably chose to live the life she wanted and do the things she wanted, for as much time as she had.
It is definitely true that health care in Bocas is non existent. The "hospital" is below the quality of a serious first aid station. I probably have more leg and arm splints in my first aid kit than they do at the Bocas Hospital, and that goes for Almirante and Changuinola too. And while there are a couple of very good hospitals in David, the lack of a blood bank and the arcane blood donation rules (which my orthopedic specialist tells me are made by the phlebotomy guild, not by doctors) means that in the case of cardiac surgery or major trauma, you are very likely to die for lack of blood before you can receive lifesaving surgery. Only in Panama City can you be assured of receiving appropriate care for extremely serious medical emergencies.
The problem in Panama is that the government, no matter what party is in power, has never spent money in the "provinces." They consider the number of voters insufficient to bother, therefore, the quality of all public (government) services in Bocas are extremely low. Not just health care; that includes water, sewage, electricity, transportation, public education, etc. I don't see any evidence that this is going to change any time soon.
Health care in Bocas will improve when there are enough middle class people living here to support a high quality private hospital with private money, because the government does not care about the people here. If they don't care about the locals, they surely don't care about expats.
It would be great to have a functioning medical evacuation service that can take a seriously ill or injured person who isn't able to fly commercial to Panama City in an emergency. It hasn't happened yet. I guess it will when there are enough people here willing to pay for it, and when the government decides to stop its time honored policy of drowning start ups in red tape.
Meanwhile, those of us expats who live here understand the situation, and we do what we can. One thing that is happening is that Bocas Water Sports is now sponsoring a monthly first aid clinic. We plan to attend next month and we hope others will too. And we plan to import a defibrillator, "just in case."

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
(Thomas Jefferson)