U.S. Quality Care at Ecuadorian Prices
If you’ve lived in Cuenca for any amount of time, you have probably passed the three-story building on Huayna Capac, near the intersection with Simón Bolívar and You may have commented on its distinctive appearance—a curving glass front with red, white and blue accents.
Even the name on the building seems exotic to our expat eyes and ears—La Clinica de Fracturas, literally translated, the Fracture Clinic. What, you may have wondered, is this building? Wonder no more. La Clinica de Fracturas, the brainchild of Doctor Gustavo Ochoa, is a fully equipped, fully licensed and accredited private hospital, dedicated to the treatment of bone injuries and related trauma. The facility even has an emergency room, available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Doctor Ochoa, educated at the University of Cuenca and La Sapienza University in Rome, opened the clinic 33-years ago to provide his fellow Cuencanos a safer and more science-based alternative to the traditional hueseros sobadores—bone-setters—that have plied their trade in Ecuador for centuries.
Over the years, Dr. Ochoa’s sons, Christian and Gustavo joined the team. All three possess impressive credentials, both in education and experience. You can view their resumes at the clinic’s website: www.clinicadefracturascuenca.com. Although they are all licensed and trained as General Orthopedic surgeons, they have their individual specialties. Dr. Ochoa Senior is a generalist, treating all manners of injuries while Christian specializes in sports medicine, and the younger Gustavo primarily works with children.
We had the opportunity to tour the facility and sit down with Doctor Christian Ochoa, who speaks fluent English by the way. His knowledge as well as his extensive range of experience, and perhaps most importantly, his passion for the art of orthopedic surgery, were quickly evident. He and his brother grew up in the business, you might say. The current building stands on the site of the family home, where Doctor Ochoa Senior established a small practice nearly forty years ago. The practice grew quickly and soon outgrew the family home.
“My father would come to me,” Christian told us, and say, "Go outside and play. I need to use your room to see a patient."
You are reading this article, most likely because you’re an expat (it’s right there in the title of the magazine). So, what are the benefits for expats? Why would you choose to come here as opposed to any of the other hospitals that Cuenca has to offer?
- Experience: If your injury involves multiple types of trauma, by all means, go to one of the general hospitals, but for anything related to fractures, La Clinica de Fracturas is the place to go. Experienced emergency room staff will ensure that you are stabilized, treat any pain you may have and quickly assess the gravity and complexity of your injury. Then one of the three surgeons will be called in, and the proposed treatment explained to you in detail. As you read earlier in this article, each doctor has their field of specialty, but rest assured that any of the three have the education and the experience to perform any procedure you may need (they each perform an average of 400 procedures per year). As in any other field, repetition is one of the keys to competency.
- Safety: The equipment (imported primarily from the U.S. and Europe) is the same as you will find in any comparable facility worldwide. The clinic uses the protocol of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Each procedure is performed with strict adherence to the academy’s guidelines and using a comprehensive pre- and post-op checklist. Further, because patients are there to be treated primarily for bone trauma only, you are less likely to be exposed to the germs and infections that you might encounter in any hospital, no matter how modern
- Cost: Admit it, this is the one that caught your eye, isn’t it? Because the clinic is so specialized, the doctors and their staff can perform their tasks with a maximum of efficiency. Because it is privately owned (three partners, no board of directors) they can minimize the paperwork and overhead. Costs can vary widely, depending on the complexity, and you should definitely do your own research, but a simple complete replacement at La Clinica de Fracturas can usually be done for $7,000 or less, as opposed to $35,000 in the U.S. / Source: www.health.costhelper.com.
They work with all insurance companies, both Ecuadorian and international. Major credit cards are accepted, regardless of country of origin.
- Convenience: The clinic has two operating theaters that are always available. You can conceivably walk (or hobble) in, have x-rays taken, consult with a surgeon and have your surgery performed the same day. The clinic offers ten rooms for overnight stays (each room contains a second bed so that your family member can stay with you). Clinic staff includes physical therapists and wound care specialists to aid you in recovery.
You do not have to break a bone in order to utilize the clinic! They also treat sports injuries, dislocations, sprains, arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc. See their website for a complete list of services. Approximately 60% of procedures are performed arthroscopically, a minimally invasive technique.
The clinic also has the latest equipment and expertise to administer shockwave therapy, an alternative to surgery in many cases.
One of the current projects at the clinic involves expanding the use of their hyperbaric chamber, one of only two in Cuenca and perhaps a dozen in Ecuador. In the chamber, the patient breathes in pure oxygen while being subject to high pressure (more than 1.5 times standard atmospheric pressure) which helps to bring oxygen to the affected area quickly and in high concentration. The FDA has approved 13 hyperbaric medicine treatments, including carbon monoxide poisoning, diabetic neuropathy, and delayed wound healing (see the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Society’s website: www.uhms.org for a complete list). In addition, studies are underway regarding the potential to use this type of treatment for Alzheimer’s and autism, AIDS and a host of other ailments. A 2013 study by the UHMS indicates that while not FDA approved yet, there is sufficient evidence to support the use of hyperbaric chambers in these treatments. The process is safe, and whatever your particular need (subject to an on-site physical exam to gauge your fitness) you can purchase a one-hour session at the clinic for as little as $60.
Did you know?
When being transported by ambulance, Ecuadorian law gives you the absolute right to choose the facility to which you want to be delivered. The attendants may want to go to a place that is convenient for them, but stand your ground.
A recent study has shown that the rate of joint replacement surgeries for people over the age of 65 has doubled in the United States over the past 20 years. The study further states that as many as one-third of these procedures may be unnecessary. Source: CBS News.