Getting sick, injured, or having health problems is never any fun – but it can all feel 100 times worse when you’re far from home. Such is the case as I’m living abroad in Dumaguete in the Philippines, and I’ve had to look for a doctor twice now in the last six months. However, medical care and adequate, modern, professional treatment can be hard to come by or even downright scary in small towns or even small cities in the Philippines. But, backing up what I’ve heard other foreigners say, I’ve found the Silliman University Medical Center to be a decent option.
What to Know About the Silliman Medical Center
The Silliman Medical Center holds the name of the oldest American university in the Philippines, Silliman University, which is a Dumaguete institution. Today’s Medical Center started as a university infirmary in 1901 (the same year the university was founded if I’m not mistaken) and became a full-fledged hospital in 1923. It’s also associated with St. Luke’s hospital in Manila, one of the most credible in the Philippines.
With all of that history and pleasantries aside, there are some things you should be aware of if you need to visit a doctor or get medical treatment in the Philippines that are far different than in the states or Canada, Europe, etc. First off, don’t expect a 24/7 facility with easily accessible care on off-hours. Instead, if you visit the medical center and it’s a night, or weekend, or one of the Philippines’ never-ending holidays, you’ll be turned away and asked to come back during business hours.
Fortunately, I haven’t had to visit the Emergency Room, so that’s exactly what happened to me during my two visits to the medical center. The first time, I fell deathly ill with the nasty flu that was going around, and the second, I had pink eye on a Sunday afternoon (and was told to come back in the morning).
But even coming during “business hours” doesn’t ensure you’ll be seen efficiently. Here’s how it works. You should know which doctor you want to see before you get there, since when you walk in to the main patient intake entrance to get slotted for an appointment, it’s just a young guy with a computer screen in front of him and you don’t want to rely on him for expertise about doctors’ specialties.
He’ll ask you who you want to see or for what and then book you in on his computer, which still doesn’t get you an appointment but a slip of paper called a Priority Number. You’ll also be given the room number for your doctor.
And then, the waiting game begins. They have a big digital board that shows each room and the number being served. There are uncomfortable plastic chairs in rows, and it does get pretty hot and stuffy in there as people wait.
For this reason, I prefer to get there super early in the morning – like 7 or 7:30 AM – and get my priority ticket, which will probably be #1 or #2 at that point. Then, I take a walk across the street (look for the 7-11) to the Alime Café, where you can enjoy amazing healthy food, shakes, wi-fi, etc. Come back at 9 or 9 30 because most doctors get in at 930 or 10, and then hang out and wait for your number to be on the board. If you are #8 and they are only on #2 (like it was today) don’t stray too far, because they often jump 2-3 numbers at a time. Once inside the office, it’s easy to see the doctor, it won’t be expensive at all (probably 500 Pesos or $10 for a visit), and they have a pharmacy conveniently right in the lobby. Good luck – and feel better!
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