We recently met Norman and Frankie in Alajuela when we were having lunch at Jalapeños Restaurant, a favorite with both expats and Ticos. They recognized us from photos on our website and introduced themselves. They arrived in Costa Rica just this year, quickly applied for residency and joined the Caja. They agreed to share their recent experiences using the Caja, below:
Our Caja Experience
We are a retired couple, both over 75 years young, and very young at heart. We arrived in Alajuela, from Atlanta, Georgia on January 28, 2014, having rented an apartment sight-unseen, only pictures online. I might add, we had never visited the country either. We lucked out, and found a great place.
Unfortunately, our meds ran out after 3 months, and we had to start buying them at the Farmacia, and, of course that was a shock. Meds are not cheap here. At last, after only 6 months of nail-biting, we became legal residents and were members of CAJA.
Our experience has been great so far. We got our Caja cards (carnets) on Monday, and immediately went to see the doctor at our local EBAIS (clinic). We were told we needed an appointment and we figured we would have to wait, as we had been told of the long lines and waiting times. Our appointment was for two days later.
We arrived a few minutes early, and were taken right away. The nurse did a blood pressure check, height and weight and spoke to us in good English. We were told to wait in the room with others for the doctor. We waited about 20 minutes, and she (the doctor) called us in. She spent almost an hour with each of us, taking history and checking what meds we needed to refill. She spoke perfect English also. Before leaving she gave us referrals to specialists that we needed to see, as well as referrals for blood work and EKGs.
I had a concern which I discussed with the doctor. She did an exam and told me what she thought it was, but that she would like me to see a specialist. She wrote out a referral for me and I had to take it to San Rafael Hospital building in Alajuela for an appointment with the specialist. I got there, and there was a line about 75 people long. But because of my gray hair, I was told to go to the 2nd window, which was empty. A young lady, who also spoke some English, made the appointment for me, but it wasn’t to be for 4 months. I questioned it and told her that I needed to see the doctor sooner. She kind of smiled, and told me that, “On Wednesday and Thursday, you can come in and wait in front of the windows at 7 AM, and if they have a cancellation, or there is room, the doctor will fit you in.” That was on a Wednesday, so on Thursday at 7 AM, we were waiting in front of the windows. After we waited about 45 minutes, the young lady came out to me and said, “The doctor will see you at door number 8 down the hall.” When we got there, there were about 30 people waiting already, but about 35 minutes later, the doctor called me into the room and did an examination. Fortunately, it was nothing serious. His words to me (in English) were “I’m not worried.” He ordered some additional tests, and said, “See you in six months.”
Our CAJA experience so far has been one of complete satisfaction. I would say I have waited for doctors or appointments for a lot longer period of time than we have so far here in Costa Rica. We love it.
To be continued.
Norman and Frankie Siegel