Learn About The Guyana Healthcare System & Insurance Options for Expats
Guyana is South America’s offbeat, adventurous country. Nestled on the northeast coast of South America, it neighbors Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela. Yes, we’re talking about the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
So, what draws travelers to Guyana? Its comparatively low property prices, warm tropical climate, and low crime rates make Guyana a sought-after destination for expats. Pristine rain forests and the majestic Kaieteur Falls are one of the significant reasons travelers flock here.
The tourism sector may be booming, but visitors to Guyana face several challenges. Guyana ranks high in terms of essential healthcare services when compared to other Caribbean countries. But, its medical care system is still a cause for concern for its foreign travelers. We advise you to buy international health insurance before arriving to have a safe and memorable journey across this foreign nation. For more details about the Guyana healthcare system, click HERE.
Overview of Healthcare System
Healthcare and medical facilities in Guyana are provided by both the public and private sectors. Guyana operates a universal healthcare system; that is, every citizen and resident of Guyana has access to the system’s facilities and services. The healthcare standard in Guyana is inadequate compared to Western countries. But, it is the best primary healthcare services among other Caribbean countries.
Though primary healthcare is free in Guyana, complex procedures such as MRI/CT/surgeries and private room accommodations are not. But, the government/hospital partially pays for the costs of medical treatment to patients who have financial difficulties. Most public hospitals in the country use outdated medical equipment and tools. Also, the sanitation and medical services at these facilities are inadequate. There’s also a limit on outpatient care — for example, diagnostic services, radiological and laboratory services, and preventive and curative dental care facilities.
In the past few years, the country has seen slight improvements in primary health services, even in rural areas. But people living in remote and far-flung regions continue to have limited or no access to doctors and specialized treatments in hospitals. There is inadequate medical staff in these areas, and their salaries are generally meager.
Even though the private healthcare sector has an independent existence and functioning, it is subject to regulations in terms of care and practice standards. The affluent prefer to seek treatments at private hospitals and centers. They get quality treatment and access to better facilities. Most expats will see private care in Guyana or go to Colombia or the USA.
How the Guyana Healthcare System Works for Expats
All visitors to Guyana have access to necessary healthcare facilities. But in case of a severe medical condition or emergency, expats and travelers are better off getting treatments in neighboring countries, such as Argentina and Mexico. These nations provide medical services of a higher quality to patients.
An emergency evacuation is a costly affair, and that is why it is only prudent that expats and travelers opt for an international private health insurance policy that covers such expenses. They should also carry along with them all their prescription medicines and any specialized medical equipment or tool that they will require during their stay in Guyana.
Public Healthcare in Guyana
The Ministry of Public Health manages Guyana healthcare system and the distribution of its resources. The Ministry, which includes the Regional Democratic Councils and Regional Health Authorities, plays a central role in coordinating with all the public healthcare organizations. It also ensures that public healthcare services are running parallel with the National Health Plan. Although the government finances a large part of public healthcare, the donor communities make significant contributions too.
There are five levels of healthcare services in the public sector:
1: Health Posts
2: Health Centers
3: District Hospitals
4: Regional Hospitals
5: Referral Hospitals
Health posts and health centers mainly provide preventive care for common ailments and diseases. These level 1 and level 2 facilities are mostly located in rural areas and serve the underprivileged sections of society. They are managed by nurses or community health workers and nursing assistants.
Private Healthcare in Guyana
In Guyana, some private hospitals are restricted to the capital city. The most prominent one is St Joseph Mercy Hospital in Georgetown. Though these medical care facilities function independently, they are bound by regulations. For example, ensuring medical practitioners meet proper standards in medical care and practice. There is no government aid provided to medical care facilities in the private sector, though there is significant involvement of NGOs in service delivery related to HIV/AIDS.
Patients availing services and treatment in private hospitals either make out-of-pocket payments or use their private health insurance plans to meet the medical expenses. With an economy that is the third weakest in South America, only a small portion of the population of Guyana can afford medical treatment in the private healthcare sector.
Emergency Medical Services in Guyana
Not all cities and areas of Guyana have access to Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Ambulance services are only available in and around the capital city of Georgetown. The rest of the country relies on local health centers or regional hospitals that have their transport options provided by the Ministry of Health — ambulances (without equipment), Land Cruisers, or medical evacuation (MedEvac) flights.
Some of the significant phone numbers that can come in handy during an emergency are the following: Ambulance/Fire/EMS: 912; Police: 911.
Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in Guyana
Health insurance is a must for all citizens of Guyana employed between the ages of 16 and 60. Those who wish to use private hospitals and clinics can also opt for private insurance. Guyana’s universal healthcare system is free to an extent, except for a few services where expats would have to make out-of-pocket payments.
Since medical facilities are limited in Guyana, we recommend travelers and expats to purchase private medical insurance before traveling. They may choose to buy an international health insurance policy that also covers the expenses of medical evacuation in case of an emergency. Cigna Global Insurance is a popular international health insurance plan that offers a comprehensive cover to expats. Another great option is the Allianz International Health Insurance Plan.