HEALTH CARE ACCESS:
Even though Panama is a country with a lot of economic growth, this growth does not apply equally to all Panamanians, especially those in rural areas. This results in stark inequality when it comes to healthcare access. The Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA) provides two different types of health facilities throughout rural Panama: Centros de Salud and Puestos de Salud. Centros are the larger of the two, often found in municipalities, and typically have at least one physician on staff at all times with nurses and potentially a dentist. Puestos are found sporadically in rural communities and generally have a single nurse available.
Even with this coverage, the Centros frequently lack a full pharmacy and the staff capacity to see every patient each day. After walking long distances or paying for a bus, rural visitors to the Centros can expect long wait times given the limited staff and resources to meet the demand from all neighboring communities. The physician density in Panama remains around 630 people for every one doctor. According to the World Health Organization, there should be a maximum of 435 people per physician to qualify a country as having adequate access to medical attention.
Yaviza does have its own Centro de Salud; however, it is located across the river from the town. The bridge across the river only wide enough for walking, which means patients must be able to walk about half a mile (across the bridge and to the Centro) or cross the river by boat. There is no emergency access. The next closest health center is about 2 hours away by public bus. Neither health center is well-staffed and often medications run out and are not re-stocked for long periods of time. The most common illnesses reported by community members in Yaviza are: high blood pressure, diarrhea, cold, and fever.