Finding a doctor in Colombia (Medellín) who speaks English

Colombia is a country full of rich culture, happiness and amazing landscapes. Although this country is fastly developing, it is still quite unorganized and chaotic at times. There is still a large lack of English spoken by the locals, even in the tourist areas. So what do you do if you are living or travelling in this beautiful country and you get sick? What about if you have an accident, you just don’t feel 100%, and you don’t speak Spanish?

When I first arrived to Colombia, I had some small medical issues. At the time I was curing them on my own with the help of WebMD, internet recipes, and the mindset… “Ibuprofen will solve it”. Back in Germany I would have gone to the doctor to get the proper diagnostic, medicine, and even a sick note for my work. But due to my level of Spanish I had at the time, this was not an option.

One day, in Medellin Colombia, I ended up getting a really bad case of tonsillitis. This was causing me a lot of pain to the point that I could barely breathe. I decided that I had to go to the emergency department at one of the local hospitals. I arrived at the emergency department at 7am where they told me that I would have to pay $500 USD if I wanted to get treated now, or that I could get an appointment in the evening in a medical center. Of course they did not speak any English here, and all I actually wanted was to get some antibiotics but they weren’t even able to give me that. At this time I was traveling as a poor student so I definitely couldn ́t afford the $500 USD they were asking. I decided to return home and I waited until 5:30pm in the afternoon to see a doctor at the medical center. Once I arrived at the medical center for my appointment I didn’t understand a lot of what the doctor was saying, but I was able to show her that my throat was infected and that I thought it was pretty bad. She gave me a prescription for a strong dose of antibiotics and told me that I would need to go to the pharmacy, fill the prescription, then return to the medical center and ask at the reception desk for a nurse that would give me the antibiotics.

When I returned to the medical center with my antibiotics I had already assumed that they would be injecting them since it was a powder formula. After waiting for a nurse to prepare the formula , she then injected it into my arm. Then from what I could understand, I had to stay for 15 minutes in the waiting room to make sure that I didn’t have an allergic reaction. After the time had passed the nurse came back and told me that I can now get the “real injection”, since the one before was just to test for allergies. I thought to myself, “fine”, and rolled up my sleeves to prepare for the next injection. This time she pulled out a much larger needle, to which I thought “wtf” that’s a pretty big needle for my arm! When she came over and made some gestures that I should lie down on my stomach, I then realized that this needle was not for my arm and would be going directly into my rear end! Damn did it hurt a lot, but hey, after a couple of hours I already started feeling a huge difference, and in the upcoming days I felt as though I was finally starting to recover.

A week later, I felt the tonsillitis rearing its ugly head again, which can be pretty bad the second time around if not treated correctly. Now I knew it was time to find an English speaking doctor to whom I could describe my situation and symptoms in detail.

This time I didn’t want to see a general practitioner, I wanted an ENT specialist. So I searched for a couple of hours on the internet and finally found a forum that mentioned the name and address of a English speaking doctor here in Medellin. I contacted the doctor and I was in luck! The doctor spoke English very well and was able to schedule me in for an appointment the following day.

When I arrived to the doctors the next day I was able to clearly explain to her in English the history of my tonsillitis and all my current symptoms. She then did some checks and identified that it was not an ongoing tonsillitis case anymore but an inflammation. She told me that the reason for this is most likely an allergic reaction to the city pollution or pollen (since it was the rainy season at that time). Due to this allergic reaction the inflammation was unable to heal so she gave me some antihistamine and anti-inflammatory tablets which I took while I was there. 

The following day my health levels had increased dramatically from 50% to 85%. Then after a few more days had passed I was back at 100% and my immune system was finally fully recovered.

Without this diagnosis, I would have probably had the inflammation for the entirety of the rainy season, or even longer if it would have gotten chronic.

I have already had similar experiences to this when I was studying in both Spain and France, but after this occurrence I thought that there has to be an easier solution for someone in my position. A way to easily access this kind of medical information, especially since more and more people are travelling and living overseas each year. This was the foundation of DocEverywhere.

Find now your English speaking doctor in Colombia or all over South America –> Try it

 

Top Tips for Healthcare in Colombia:

  • Most of the doctors are using WhatsApp. So rather than a normal call, you can contact them easily by texting and asking any questions or making an appointment. Remember to confirm the cost and that the doctor/dentist/specialist speaks English.
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  • The doctors visit should cost around 100-200k COP ($40 USD) depending on the doctor, location and specialization.
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  • When buying medicine from the pharmacies without having a prescription, try to show them a photo of the medicine you want to purchase. You can search for that before you go by visiting a webpage of a Colombian pharmacy (e.g.  “Farmacias Pasteur” https://www.farmaciaspasteur.com.co/).
  • You can then select a generic brand (generica) and take a screenshot of it. This can save you a lot of money because otherwise some pharmacies will try to sell you the more expensive brands. When in the store, you can also ask them “Tiene algo más barato?” which means “Do you have something cheaper?” in Spanish.