Patricia Figuera

Patricia Figuera

With a degree in Social Communications and over sixteen years experience in Journalism and Corporate Communications, Patricia Figuera specialices in health, sports and economy publications. She is Venezuelan, mother, ex-athlete of high competence (member of the National Swimming Team of Venezuela), lover of reading and number one fan of her children.

Website URL: http://https://www.saludpanama.com/acerca-de-salud-panama

The many facets of panamanian Tourism

  • Published in Tourism

A strategic geographical location, a dollarized and growing economy, a healthy political climate, hotels, shopping malls, conventions centers, beaches, mountains, history, 54 boarding gates and 62 jet bridges at the Tocumen International Airport; these all facilitate the arrival of millions of tourists annually to the Central American isthmus.

By The Editorial Board of HealthPanama.com

In the heart of the Americas, joining North and South, lies Panama, a country that’s quickly becoming a popular destination for millions of people looking to enjoy paradise beaches and modern shopping malls, purchase brand name products at bargain prices, close business deals on neutral ground, visit one of the world’s most exciting engineering wonders and much, much more.

Every year, Panama welcomes with open arms more than 3 million visitors, a figure equivalent to its total population. The charisma of its people, the dollarized economy, its geographical location and global access, its large touristic infrastructure, as well as the hundreds of locations and attractions that it offers, make Panama a destination worth visiting.

But what does Panama specifically offer the visitor? What exactly makes it so attractive?

Panama is a small country that can be travelled from east to west within 8 hours and traversed from its north coast to its southern coast in less than 3 hours. This exceptional geography allows the traveller to take in the magnitude of the Panama Canal and experience unique activities such as bathing in two different oceans on the same day, going deep into the jungle, trekking or snorkeling and whale, caiman or bird watching. It also offers the opportunity to come into contact with centuries of history, to enjoy the cool weather of its highlands, to climb the country’s volcano and stop for a cup of Panama’s world-class gourmet coffee. These are just a few of the many things that the country can offer.

Official statistics indicate that a tourist stays for 8 days on average in Panama. This is not enough time to get to know and enjoy everything that the Central American isthmus can offer, but it lets the tourist bring home good memories about a fulfilling stay that will certainly translate into a return visit. We also do not have enough pages to tell you all about it. We will leave you with just a few suggestions while saying out loud: We are waiting for you!

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal, with 102 years of uninterrupted operation, it’s a mandatory stop. If you do not visit the Canal, you can’t say you visited Panama. Spending half a day at one the visitor centers, such as Miraflores or Agua Clara, is a must.

In the visitors’ center of Miraflores, located on the Pacific side of the Canal, you’ll be able to see first hand how the canal locks open and close as ships make their scheduled passage. A bilingual tour guide will explain the operation of the locks, talk about the Canal history and share some fun facts about this colossal masterpiece connecting the world on a daily basis. You may witness the crossing of a small sailboat, a cruise ship or a container carrier.

If you already know the Miraflores visitors’ center, then consider adding the Agua Clara center on the Atlantic coast to your plans. If it’s your first visit to Panama, make sure to include at least one of them as part of your itinerary.

City Contrast

A quick way to experience Panama without a taking a long trip is by visiting La Calzada de Amador, also known as the Causeway. Built in 1913 using the excavated rocks from the Culebra Cut, a segment of the Canal the cuts through the Continental Divide, this causeway joins Panama City to four nearby islands in the Pacific: Naos, Perico, Culebra and Flamenco.

The site was part of a US military complex known as Fuerte Amador, established to protect the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Today, you can still see remnants of the military installations on the islands.

Having been transformed into a tourist attraction, today the Causeway is one of the most popular and visited locations in Panama. It offers a breathtaking view of the city and of the ships awaiting entry into the Canal.

The Causeway is the perfect place to go for a walk and enjoy a good time with family and friends at one of its many restaurants offering national and international food. With its undeniable beauty and history, the Causeway is another must-see on your agenda.

Close by is the Cinta Costera (coastal belt) from where the contrasts of the city can be experienced. Modern skyscrapers and buildings from Panama’s colonial times are surrounded by a walkway ideal for exercising and spending time with family. It shares space with kids parks, sport courts, fountains, historical monuments and lookouts.

Beaches

Panama is surrounded by sea. This presents an unusual dilemma: choosing a beach among many; especially when they are all unique and beautiful.

If your plan is to spend your days in the sand, the sun and the sea, these are some of the names you need to put down on your agenda: Bocas del Toro, Pedasí, Contadora, Taboga, Santa Catalina, San Blas. A detailed description of each individual location would need to start with a disclaimer about how every single one of them is a must-see. This will undoubtedly make you question the amount of time you were originally planning to spend in Panama. So, in order to simplify matters for you dear traveller, let us be kind and offer you a brief summary of some of these gorgeous beach destinations. The choice will be yours.

Boca del Drago is the beach to visit if planning to travel to the province of Bocas del Toro, on the western end of the country. This beach can be accessed by bike, bus or taxi. There are local restaurants serving a wide variety of fresh seafood and ceviche. Alternatively, you may also choose a platter of fried fish with a side of coconut rice, accompanied with an ice-cold beer.

Also in Bocas del Toro, you can find Cayos Zapatillas, uninhabited islands full of white sand and reefs chockfull of marine life. This important ecological area is designated as a protected nesting site for the Hawksbill sea turtle, which is a critically endangered species.

If you have already seen its popular pictures and set your mind on visiting San Blas, then you would have chosen wisely. With 378 islands along the Caribbean coast of Panama, it is paradise on earth. Despite the course of time, San Blas remains unchanged and natural, offering travellers the perfect quietude to bathe in the sea, scuba dive, or simply read a good book by the beach of your dreams.

Mountains and Highlands

Panama’s highlands offer a spring-like weather year round and have become one of the main destinations in the country for tourists from all over the world. The province of Chiriqui, also found in the west end of the country bordering Costa Rica, is home to the best highlands in the country, as well as beaches and much more. Beyond the geographical wonders of its mountain and beach locations, Chiriqui is also home to rich indigenous cultures, idyllic retiree communities and a host of attractions such as world-class rafting, kayaking, bird watching and trekking among others.

If you like good coffee you cannot miss this province. Chiriqui is home to some of the best coffee beans in the world. At the annual The Best of Panama 2016 international coffee auction, Panama’s coffee achieved a new average record price of 60$ USD the pound. Café Geisha de Panama continued dominating as one of the highest valued aromatic coffees in the world. The Café Geisha Green Tip Washed was in fact auctioned at 275.50$ USD the pound. This coffee is grown in Alto Quiel, town of Boquete, Chiriqui, at approximately 5,900 feet above sea level.

The town of Boquete in Chiriqui is the main highland destination in Panama. It is considered as one of the best places in the world to own a vacation home or to retire. Located near the border with Costa Rica, its central attraction is the inactive Barú volcano, which sits at 11,400 feet above sea level, offering spectacular vistas and gifting the region with rich volcanic soil that produces exceptional flora and fauna.

Colonial Panama

Panama’s Casco Viejo (old town) is a beautiful touristic site in the city. It was founded in 1673 after pirates destroyed the first city in 1671. The remnants of old city, known as Panama La Vieja, can also be visited (see below).

The new city was built and fortified with a wide wall of stone to protect against pirate incursions. In the Casco Viejo you will find good restaurants and sale stands offering traditional crafts, but most notably you will find exquisite architecture of religious, civil and military nature that despite the passage of time has preserved its historic features. Some of these buildings are: El Palacio de las Garzas (the presidential building); Paseo Esteban Huertas, also know as Las Bóvedas; the Teatro Nacional and the Teatro Anita Villalaz; the Palacio Municipal (city hall), as well as the Museo del Canal Interoceánico and the Museo Religioso. There are also several historical churches such as the Iglesia de San Jose, which has a gold altar; the Iglesia San Felipe de Neri, the oldest in Panama; and the Iglesia Catedral. You will also find a number of important squares such as the Plaza de Francia, Plaza Bolivar, Plaza Herrea, Plaza Santa Ana and the Plaza de la Independencia.

The Panamá Viejo Historical Monument Complex, also known as Panama La Vieja, can be found within the modern city, between the mouths of the Algarrobo and Abajo rivers. It sits in front of the Pacific Ocean at the narrowest section of the isthmus.

Shopping Tourism

Panama is considered as one of the most attractive shopping destinations of the Americas due to the large number of shopping malls and low pricing. Visitors can enjoy large and modern malls that offer shopping aficionados a great variety of stores and luxury brands, but above all, bargain prices.

Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Carolina Herrea, Salvatore Ferragamo, Micahel Kors, Ermenegildo Zegna and Adolfo Dominguez all have a presence in the luxury halls of the most popular malls in Panama City.  You can also find Hugo Boss, Juicy Couture, Mango, Zara, GAP, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Lacoste, Oscar de la Renta and Polo.

Panama City has 6 major shopping malls: Metromall, Multicentro, Multiplaza, Albrook Mall, El Dorado and Altaplaza.

Due to its geographical location, Panama has also become an intense trading hub that gives buyers access to not only retail shopping, but also wholesale purchasing depending on their needs.

Panama also has the second most important free trade zone in the western hemisphere which can operate as a supply hub for buyers importing product into their respective countries. Goods such as apparel, electronics, appliances, furniture and cosmetics among others, can be procured tax-free thanks to special zone regulations.

A Destination for Conventions and Trade Shows

Panama has become an economic growth indicator in Latin America as one of the leading countries in terms of international conventions, trade shows and other events of great magnitude thanks to its unique location and impressive infrastructure.

Tourism centered on business meetings and conventions has become a niche market for Panama and the country is investing decisively in its diversification and further growth during the current year. The goal of this plan is to identify and manage the different tourism segments flowing into the country and putting an emphasis on attracting markets that spend more than the average tourist. Preserving the customer loyalty of the business traveller and stimulating the growth of the demand for these services are also key elements of this strategy.

In 2015 alone, Panama hosted 63 congresses and conventions. This number was expected to be surpassed considerably in 2016.

Religious Heritage

Panama’s folkloric tradition is rich and abundant in cultural manifestations, especially in the inner country towns that make an effort to preserve their religious festivities. This concern and interest, both nationally and internationally, translate into religious tourism. This segment generates a great number of international visitors to Panama.

Thanks to this type of travel, the country receives thousands of tourists in search of the history behind some of the cultural and religious assets mostly related to the Catholic Church in Panama.

In Panama City’s Casco Viejo exists a series of religious temples with a rich history and architecture that dates back to colonial times. This is also the case in different parts of the country’s interior such as in Natá de los Caballeros in the province of Coclé or San Francisco de la Montaña in the province of Veraguas.

Likewise, hundreds of foreigners arrive in Panama to take part in the procession of the Black Christ of Portobelo, which is celebrated annually on October 21. Another annual event that attracts similar crowds is known as the Santa Librada celebrations in the Province of Los Santos, which occur in the month of July.

Medical and Health Tourism

Aside from its engineering wonder, beaches, shopping malls, convention centers, colonial history and religious heritage, Panama is also experiencing considerable growth in the medical tourism field. This activity involves travelling to another destination in search of health care at a lower cost.

The worldwide connectivity in today’s global village makes possible what would have been inconceivable just a few decades ago. Today any person can choose to see a doctor on the other side of the world or Panama for instance. At this point it’s only a matter of securing the necessary financial resources.

Panama has a medical infrastructure consisting of quality clinics and hospitals, some of which hold international certifications and affiliations. It also has cutting edge technology and thousands of skilled doctors and specialists who remain up to date in the latest medical advances and procedures; most of them still have a 33% availability in their patient capacity and most of them are certainly ready for booking. There are also facilities for recovery and wellness that offer packages and plans for medical tourists. You can also find local companies that serve as facilitators and can assist patients with gathering all required information, looking after all their needs and ensuring the safest, most economical and reliable medical travel.

Some important key points that also contribute to the arrival of medical tourists in Panama are its strategic geographical location, its dollarized and growing economy, its healthy political climate, the 54 boarding gates and 62 jet bridges at its Tocumen International Airport and the existence of companies such as MedicalPan, S.A., which was the first enterprise to offer quality care to the international patient.

Panama’s medical costs are 40% to 70% less expensive than similar procedures in the United States and they are provided with equal, and sometimes greater quality than in the northern nations or other countries in the region.

It is important to mention that last May Panama performed its first heart transplant, only the second country in Latin America after Argentina to carry out this procedure.  This achievement helped to certify at the highest level the two institutions involved in the process: The Arnulfo Arias Metropolitan Complex and the Punta Pacifica Hospital. This certification ensures to patients from around the world the competence of Panamanian institutions to perform critical and complex procedures at the highest global standards.

Panama’s offer is crystal clear: affordability, cultural compatibility due to its affinity with the Anglophone market, cutting edge technology and highly skilled human resources that can’t be matched in the region. These features make Panama the clear option for medical tourists from the Caribbean, Central and South America regions, as well as the North American nations.

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100 years of Panama Canal Influence on the Public Health of the Americas

  • Published in Business

The Panama Canal is renowned worldwide for the tremendous commercial impact it has made for the countries that use it. It is also the main source of income for the Republic of Panama.

Since the grand opening of this unique interoceanic waterway one hundred years ago on August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal has had a huge impact on world trade by shortening the distance of travel between trading nations. The opening of the Panama Canal sparked a worldwide explosion of commercial and economic exchange by offering a shorter route and cost effective trade between nations.

The result has been a decisive influence on the patterns of world commerce that has stimulated the economic growth of both developed and lesser developed nations. The Panama Canal has also provided the sought after stimulus for economic growth in even the most remote regions of the world.

In 2007, the Republic of Panama began construction of a new set of locks that would accommodate the interoceanic transit of Post Panamax ships. At a cost of more than 5 billion US dollars, once completed the new locks will keep pace with the future of interoceanic trade and allow commerce to continue its growth worldwide.

On August 15, 2014, the world celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal and all the benefits to world trade that have resulted. That date also marked the 100 year anniversary of the influence of the Panama Canal on the public health of the Americas.

Early historical documents paint a picture of the isthmian region that is in stark contrast to what we find today. For centuries prior to the Panama Canal, the isthmus of the Americas was a place of widespread transmittable diseases that made the countries in the region inhospitable to humans. Often leading to death, such diseases included not only malaria and yellow fever, but also pneumonia, tuberculosis, nephritis, dysentery, typhoid, diarrhea in children, and leprosy.

Discovering how to control and eventually eradicate the spread of many of these diseases became a primary concern for canal engineers who knew that the construction and successful completion of the Panama Canal depended on it. The result was a major initiative to create a public health and sanitation program that included providing the isthmian population with sewage treatment, water drainage, clean potable water, more water wells, and even sidewalks with gutters. All of these measures were new to the region, but they generated a huge impact on the country’s health as a nation. It is important to remember that many of the early sanitation efforts were aimed at successfully completing the Panama Canal, and these early efforts were the beginnings of good health and sanitation that exist throughout the Americas today.

On May 29th of this year, Dr. Jorge A. Motta, research associate at the Gorgas Health Institute, was a forum speaker at the 100 Years of the Panama Canal: A Centennial of Contributions to Global Health conference. Noting the nation’s socio-economic status, Dr. Motta stated that between 1904 and 1916, the main causes of death in hospitals in the region were due to yellow fever, tuberculosis, malaria, trauma, nephritis, dysenteries, heart diseases, typhoid, diarrhea in children, and cancer.

The Rise, Decline, and Legacy of Yellow Fever
In a forum organized by the University of South Florida, Dr. John McNeil from Georgetown University stated that yellow fever was first introduced to the region through the European plantation agriculture system of growing sugarcane for export and also the building of harbored cities in Panama City and Colon. The disease, however, proliferated out of control because of the region’s warm and wet climate. That climate was a favorable to the disease vector soon discovered to be a particular breed of mosquito.

Dr. McNeil further stated that the human costs of yellow fever were always high. Between 1647 and 1905, thousands of young teenagers lost their lives to the disease. Death rates were particularly high in clustered populations, such as cities, army installations, and among ships crew. However, people born and raised in less populated endemic zones were less affected by the disease.

During the French attempt at building the Panama Canal between 1882 and 1889, yellow fever accounted for 25% of the annual mortality rate among European labor, while labor from Jamaica and Barbados were far less affected.

In 1881, Cuban researcher Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay hypothesized that the disease was transmitted by means of an intermediary agent identified as the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Finlay announced his hypothesis at the International Health Conference in Washington DC.

Later that same year, Dr. Finlay proved his hypothesis through experiments with Cuban volunteers, and notably observed that individuals who were bitten only once by an infected Aedes Aegypti developed an immunity to some of the symptoms of yellow fever. This observation led to the development of a serum to combat yellow fever.

For almost 20 years, Dr. Finlay’s research went virtually ignored by the scientific community, until the end of the Spanish American War, when Cuba’s Governor Leonard Wood called for a more detailed review of Finlay’s research and continued experimentation.

In December 1898, Dr. William Crawford Gorgas was named Cuba’s Superior Health Chief, and the Commission on Yellow Fever was directed to continue Finlay’s groundbreaking discoveries. The commission set about to isolate infected individuals and to eradicate the Aedes Aegypti mosquito through public works projects. In less than 8 months, the prevalence of yellow fever virtually disappeared from Cuba.

Dr. Gorgas was then sent to the Panamanian Isthmus to apply the same procedures that had proven to be so effective in Cuba. The procedure worked a second time, allowing the Panama Canal to be completed. A plaque stands today on the grounds of the Panama Canal Administration Building commemorating Dr. Finlay’s early discoveries and his contribution in the construction of this world class mega project.

The strategies and methods to fight malaria and yellow fever that were so successful in Panama were replicated in other parts of the region with equal results.

The Legacy of Other Public Health Interventions
Dr. Motta also stated that the arrival of Dr. Gorgas signaled the beginning of not only eliminating the threat of malaria and yellow fever on the isthmus but also to provide first class hospital care for infected individuals. Hospital Santo Tomas soon went into full operation caring for canal workers as well as people of from all walks of life, and this had a great impact on the health and well being of the nation as a whole.

Other public health projects that quickly got underway were Panama’s first clean water plant, sewage treatment facilities, and a system for garbage collection.

Public Health Policy
Many of the policies, projects, and strategies improving public health in Panama at the time of the construction of the Panama Canal were replicated in other counties in the region. Dr. Mirta Rose Periago, Director Emeritus of the Pan American Health Organization , says that Panama’s role as a model for other nations should never change.

In a forum moderated by Dr. Periago, entitled Innovative Interventions to Create Adequate Public Policies that Guarantee Improvements to the Regional Health Index, Dr. Periago stated that Panama’s health policy objectives at the beginning of 20th Century were to control transmittable diseases so that Panama could empower a global market and aid the development of other nations. However, Dr. Periago went further to say that in the 21st Century the focus of politics and policy should be on maintaining the free and healthy circulation of people now that Panama has become an important transit zone.

The Republic of Panama’s public health policies are now a legacy, and the legacy continues more than a century later. Since 2005, health and safety along the Panama Canal has been guided by International Health Regulations, which has made Panama the sentinel for public health in international events and assures the good health of Panama’s citizenry, labor force, and tourists by promoting research and sharing information. In so doing, health and safety in Panama continue to be a top priority for the nation, the region, and the world that transits the Panama Canal.

In his commemorative speech at the 100 Years of the Panama Canal: A Centennial of Contributions to Global Health conference, Dr. Jorge A. Motta stated, “Public health improvements have become one of Panama’s greatest legacies over the past century. Without health, the Panama Canal would not have been completed successfully. Without health, we could not have built the country we wanted.” One hundred years of Panama Canal influence on the public health of the Americas continues.

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Boquete: A destination in the Health Tourism World

An article by Thalia Velasquez - The Wellness Pundit

It is so unfortunate that we humans tend to abuse our bodies, exposing ourselves to all kinds of stress and toxins. It is our tendency to consume without limits while our bodies withhold all the pressures of this lifestyle. This applies to all food, beverages, the pollution in the air and water, the lack of physical activities and working too much. this makes us feel anxious due to lack of time to achieve all our goals. The famous Mr. Time, who seems to always go against us.

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Panama's Health Care GROWS

  • Published in Business

Panama is undergoing a remarkable boom in new health care infrastructure, driven by an ever-growing health sector that focuses on high-quality services and patient care. Supplementing this growth is an increased spending in medical tourism, a rising rate of immigration and a construction boom in the residential and commercial sectors. With all the makings of a growing metropolis, growing traffic and massive expansion towards the city outskirts, Panama’s health sector answers the call for action in bringing quality health care to its growing population and visitors where needed the most.

In the past couple of years, companies in the construction industry have invested in the development of real estate destined to serve as comprehensive health care facilities. Their plan responds to the current needs of a local and foreign population eager to have access to good quality and timely health services. Panama’s position as a health care travel destination also underlines the importance of having more facilities to serve international patients comfortably and fittingly.

A quick survey of current projects reveals that in the next three years, Panama city will have four new medical conglomerates: two in the city core and two in its outskirts. There will also be new clinics and a hotel intended for patients only. Added to this, numerous renovations and extensions have been undertaken by well-established and prominent medical centers, hospitals and clinics in the country. Such is the case of the Hospital Nacional’s new medical offices; the Clínica Hospital San Fernando’s new maternity ward; and the Centro Médico Paitilla’s new MRI room, the most state of the art in Panama and Central America.

HealthPanama.com sat down with representatives from the companies developing these medical conglomerates, as well as with experts from the medical tourism industry, in order to discuss the reasons behind this health care boom, their objectives and projections.

The Need To Keep Up
Panama’s construction industry continues to grow at high speed. Shopping malls, offices and housing developments are part of the boom generated by the rapid population growth of both, nationals and newcomers, the latter group having significantly increased in the last few years.

“This population growth has not only boosted the construction sector, but also the health care sector. There are more and more people living in the outskirts of Panama city who need to make long journeys in order to access health services currently offered only in the city; an area where such demand has already increased due to its population density and those arriving for Medical Tourism purposes” says gynaecologist Konstantinos Tserotas, medical director of MedicalPan, the top company in Panama dedicated to quality care for international patients.

According to Tserotas, this creates the need for new health care infrastructure that should be up and running within 2 to 3 years. This is why established hospitals and clinics with years of existence in the national market have been expanding their facilities, while private companies are opting to develop medical offices and comprehensive medical centers.

“The current outlook makes it important to create new care facilities in areas where there were none, as well as in areas where, nowadays, due to growth and development, their populations would not travel far in order to receive primary care. This scenario also encourages doctors to diversify and offer their services from different locations” says Tserotas.

Dr. Tserotas points out how today Medical Tourism also plays a key role behind these needs. “We require new, more specialized medical facilities, hospital clinics and even hotels especially designed to serve the needs of international patients. A good example of such project is The Panama Clinic, a medical complex with medical offices, a hospital clinic and a specialized hotel”

The director of MedicalPan estimates that while the construction of medical offices may reach surpass local requirements at the moment, it is necessary to prepare for the immediate future.

“There’s no shopping spree for health care providers. We can’t hire a large number of doctors just to serve these centers or fill the new medical offices. Medicine is a long-winded career. You need 14 years to be a neurologist and 18 to be a clinical oncologist, to mention a couple. Perhaps these new facilities may be filled by doctors who already have practices in other centers or who would partner with each other in other to serve different areas of the city” says Tserotas.

The Public Sector Also Responds
Tserotas also says that this health care boom not only concerns the private sector, but also the public one. There are more and more foreign nationals, with permanent residence in Panama, who require the health services offered by the Caja de Seguro Social (Social security), the National Oncology Institute and the Health Ministry, among others.

Although growth in the public sector does not match that of the private sector, projects of great magnitude have been launched to offer health care services to more people in the near feature

In May of 2012, work began in the construction of the Ciudad Hospitalaria de Panamá (Panama’s Hospital City), an area covering over 78 Acres. Fifty-four percent of its 1st phase has been completed, while the 2nd phase has already been started, according to the project’s website http://www.css.gob.pa/pro-ciudadhospitalaria.html. This project is designed to meet a 5% annual increase in demand of specialized care by new users of the Caja de Seguro Social (Social security).

According to the data referenced above and taking into account current trends, Panama’s Hospital City will have provided approximately 937,528 specialized consultations by the year 2030.

This past September 7, president Juan Carlos Varela announced the move of the National Oncology Institute to Panama’s Hospital City within two years. This will offer more adequately, and to a greater number of patients, the oncological services of the institution. The new location will have 100 additional beds, effectively increasing its capacity to 250 inpatients.

The City As Central Axis
There is no doubt that Panama City is, and will continue to be, the central axis for Medical Tourism in the country. This is due to many factors, which include an advantageous location for easy access and transportation; the quality and cost of products, medical and health services; as well as access to appropriate lodging that matches these services.

This is why developers such as SBA Group have decided to venture in the health sector as a new niche market.

SBA Group’s Panama Medical Center (PMC) project, for instance, will provide more than 86,000 square feet of medical real estate in a centric area, known as a medical district (Justo Arosemena St and 43rd); this is due to neighbouring facilities, such as Hospital Nacional, Hospital del Niño and Hospital Santo Tomas, among other health care centers.

With a nearby subway station, PMC will have a fourteen story multilevel parking (under and above ground), six high capacity elevators and two emergency staircases that will offer doctors and patients the best possible access.

The project will include pharmacy, laboratories, cafeteria and a high-quality imaging laboratory. With medical centers being their main assets, PMC will be able to offer an ambulatory surgical center with the latest cutting edge technologies, as well as modules for different medical specialties. All these characteristics are considered essential for the Panamanian market by the developer.

PMC will not only be a building offering comfortable medical facilities. It is important to mention the architectural and aesthetical aspects of the project, which will feature an imposing glass façade and interior finishes of the highest quality, never before seen in Panama.

“At the moment we have a high level of product due to the number of commercial developments currently underway or about to start. There is more availability in the market at the moment as demand climbs to meet it. However, this is not really a concern as we are confident about the gradual growth of the country,” says SBA Group developer Gabriel Bassan, when referring to the commercial market in Panama.

“We estimate that in three years the country will be balanced in terms of commercial real estate and demand will surge again,” he adds.

With respect to the health market, specifically regarding infrastructure, Bassan believes that there is still a way to go. “We have seen the investment on expansion and improvements that private institutions have done in the past decade, which the country certainly benefits from. Now, however, there are hybrid projects that do not necessarily provide what the market is looking for”.

He considers that having a medical center within a shopping mall has its limitations as data has shown that both doctors and patients prefer their facilities separate from commercial or residential activities. PMC offers precisely that: all facilities are exclusive to the Medical Center.

For Bassan there is no risk in building medical facilities. It is simply a response to a need that must be heeded. He indicates that Panamanians and foreigners, as well as practitioners and patients, deserve facilities in accordance with the growth and trends of the country. “This means being at the forefront in Latin America, not only in terms of services, but also aesthetics, just as our commercial real estate currently is.”

Asked about how space in PMC will be offered to the health market in general, the developer responded emphatically that it is not a project aimed at business investment.

“We have received many investment offers; however, we reserve the right to sell only to doctors or students in process of becoming doctors. The idea is for them to control their market and to eliminate speculation,” says Bassan.

SBA Group plans to deliver the 15 million dollar PMC project in the middle of 2018.

In Bassan’s view, the current growth in Panama’s health care industry is thanks to the private institutions that have worked together with doctors in order to have hospitals, offices, surgical centers and cutting edge services.

“Panama as a medical destination is something that is occurring in recent years, helped by that growth in the health sector. That projection will grow even more. Panama is the hub of the Americas and patients from all around us will want to receive care from our leading doctors. However, for that we need facilities that can go hand in hand with our doctors” highlights Bassan.

Pushing the City Outskirts
More and more residential projects are being built in the outskirts of the city. Areas such as Panama Este and Panama Oeste have middle class and higher middle class neighbourhoods, as well as shopping malls, small and medium businesses. These areas have ceased to be known as bedroom neighbourhoods.

Medical offices are currently being built in areas such as Brisas del Golf and Costa del Este, where there is an important growth in population, as well as commercial and business activities.

The Centro Médico del Este, a pillar of the TownCenter Costa del Este development, could become the new center of activity in Panama. It consists of three towers of seven stories for medical offices and specialized clinics, designed for the comfort of both patients and doctors who choose this as their health care center.

On the first floor, local patients will find a primary care ward, created to offer quick access and complementary clinical services.

Easily accessible, the Centro Médico Costa del Este offers a 4,000 car parking facility, including 2,500 indoor spots. These have quick and easy access to the lobby area, from where offices are reached via high-speed elevators.

The aim of this center is to foster a personalized and comprehensive care of patients. This encompasses prevention, diagnostic, treatment, a results-oriented approach to clinical cases and comprehensive medical collaboration, including management and coordination of services by specialty.

With regards to the commercial market in Panama, José Manuel Bern, VP of Empresas Bern, developer of the Centro Médico del Este, sees high expectations for the health sector due to the optimal growth Panama has undergone in the past 10 years.

“We see many international companies setting up headquarters in Panama, which boosts construction. We think we are experiencing a construction boom at par with the demand, including all related aspects such as offices, apartments, hotels and also the health sector” he offers.

He adds, “The health market in Panama is adapting to changes in a population now interested in prevention, fitness and access to specialized treatment. The leading hospitals are quickly expanding their infrastructure and range of care offerings in order cater to an international audience”.

Bern highlights that seeing the centralization of health care in downtown while the city itself expands towards the outskirts by building all-inclusive residential developments, is the reason behind this project’s genesis. Empresas Bern seized the opportunity of bringing the best possible health care closer to a new, growing segment of the population.

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