Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Stark Contrast by Willa Chen

            The past few weeks in San José and Las Cruces Research Station have been quite enlightening.  I thoroughly enjoyed living with host families and taking Spanish at the Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA) in San José, and Las Cruces is a beautiful field station that I can’t wait to return to at the end of the semester.  During the past few weeks, we have been on several field trips to various hospitals and indigenous areas.  However, what struck me the most during this time was the stark contrast in healthcare in different areas of Costa Rica.
            It is easy to compare the Costa Rican healthcare system with that of the United States, since both are very obviously different – Costa Rica has universal healthcare and all the pros (and cons) that come along with that, while the United States does not.  It was not until we visited several health institutions, though, that I realized how different various levels and types of hospitals in Costa Rica were.  While we were in San José, we visited a private hospital called Clínica Bíblica.  It was a beautiful hospital, similar to the hospitals I have been to in the United States.  Patients seemed very well cared for, and there were cafes and brightly colored stained glass windows, as well as a piano in the dining area.  However, I did not realize how truly impressive it was until we visited the next hospital immediately after – a public hospital called Hospital San Juan de Dios.  Perhaps it was the rain that coincidentally started falling that afternoon, but the hospital gave me a strange feeling of melancholy.  It seemed overcrowded, and doctors and nurses seemed stretched thin with the sheer number of patients they had to care for.  It was by no means a bad hospital, but the juxtaposition of these two hospital visits struck me with surprise.

            Later on the way to Las Cruces, we stopped by an EBAIS in La Casona, an indigenous area.  An EBAIS is focused on more personalized and community-catered healthcare, so it was no surprise it was small.  The two photos I have attached show the goals of Clínica Bíblica and the EBAIS.  With the private hospital’s fancy billboard with broad goals such as service, integrity, and cooperation compared to the EBAIS’s goals of prevention and promotion scribbled on a whiteboard, it was obvious these two healthcare facilities were on different levels.  But after visiting the EBAIS, I left with a comforted feeling.  The doctor who talked with us was enthusiastic about helping the community, focusing on problems specific to the indigenous people in the area.  It was clear that even though there are such different levels of healthcare in Costa Rica, they all play their part in helping the community, whether on a broader scale or a smaller, community-catered level.

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