Panama November 2018: The Value of Time

Panama isn’t a particularly efficient country on a good day, and services available to the poor seem especially absent any concern for the value of time. Gloria has been having further health problems for which the clinic doctor whom she sees in the interior has recommended additional tests. Those are available to Gloria at Hospital Santo Tomas, a public hospital one rung below the hospital where Minga goes. Minga has Seguro Social through her son Angel. Gloria does not.

Appointments at Hospital Santo Tomas have to be made in person. One arrives at a large waiting room, and gets in a line to approach a window where such things are handled. Gloria went right after breakfast on Monday using the Metro; she might well have come in from Rio Hato, a trip of at least 2 hours depending on traffic. Lines were already long; she joined the shortest one. When she reached the window, she was told no appointments are being made for the rest of 2018 because all the spots are full. She has to come back in January for a 2019 appointment. There is some urgency to the tests she needs, and there is no telling what sort of delay might happen in January, even if she makes the effort to be back at Santo Tomas right after the New Year.

Gloria might have spent the better part of five hours and $7 to be told she was out of luck. That she spent less hardly softens the blow of having no appointment at all.

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