Wrote this several days ago. I’m much better now but the info is still interesting.
For the last few days I have been pretty sick with the tourist’s disease which has lots of different names in different places but the worst diarrhea you can imagine by whatever you want to call it is still horrible so I’ll leave the details to your imagination. Anyway, I am recovering thanks to the Guatemalan Public Health Service. This is a few words about how that worked here in this so-called “third world” country.
In San Marcus where I was staying there aren’t any doctors (at least as far as I know.) The town is just too small. However, there is a government public health clinic. And, it is completely free. To everyone. That’s right – EVERYONE! Even Gringo foreigners.
I was asking around about where I could get medicine for my “problem” and was directed there. Not really understanding Spanish, I didn’t really know what the place was. I just knew I was sick and they might be able to help me. I went in and with Diane’s help, explained to the person in front about my symptoms. I was asked to wait. I was thinking in terms of a United States public clinic or something like that so figured I was in for a few hours of misery.
Surprise! About 15 minutes later, I was invited into another room. No questions had been asked other than about general symptoms. Not even my name. When I got into the other room there was a lady whom I assume was a nurse practitioner. She spoke only Spanish so Diane’s help was priceless. I was asked further questions about my symptoms. After narrowing it down this way, the nurse went to a cabinet and returned with a package of Metronidazole tablets and two packages of a powder to mix with water. She explained slowly and clearly how to take them in Spanish (I even understood her.) In addition there were directions were on the packages.
She then gave the medicine to me and asked me to sign a sheet to show I had received the medicine. This was the first time I had been asked for any sort of name. I signed but was still not asked for identification. I could have signed “John Smith”. I then asked “Quanta questa?” (How much?) The answer – “No charge.”
Still not understanding that this was a GOVERNMENT PUBLIC HEALTH FACILITY (I mean, forgive me, I’m stupid, I’m from the United States where you die if you can’t pay and as you are dying, people applaud.) I pulled a 100 Q from my pocket (about $12.50) and tried to give it to her as a donation. I was sincere. I’m just not used to the government giving me anything. She just smiled and shook her head at my Gringo ignorance.