Healthcare in Bolivia



Considered as one of the lowest among the Western Hemisphere countries, Bolivia’s healthcare system proves to be poor and struggling. That being said, expatriates should make it one of their first priorities to have adequate medical coverage and access to healthcare to ensure their well-being while working in Bolivia. 

The overall health system of Bolivia is still under reform and expats bound here should prepare themselves to witness a below average quality of healthcare is far from what they are used to in their home countries. The mortality rate in this country is one of the worst in South America whereas there are 69 deaths out of 1,000 live births. Sanitation, proper nourishment and malnutrition are also some of the worst problems in Bolivia. It is strongly advised that foreign nationals get complete immunisation before flying in. It is also best to refrain from drinking tap water or eating anything not prepared in front of you to avoid diarrhoea which is one of the leading causes of death in Bolivia. 

Bolivia’s Public Healthcare System 

It is true that the condition of medical system in Bolivia is miles away from those in Europe and in the West but basic medical services is still affordable because of the current changes the socialist government is implementing. Social security in Bolivia is in place not just for the citizens but also for all employed and resident foreign nationals. In 2010, contributions to social security were also made mandatory for all expat employees. All locals and eligible foreign nationals are entitled to treatment under their membership to the state-funded public healthcare scheme called Caja Nacional de Salud (National Health Fund). 

Though the CNS provides free or heavily subsidised healthcare and medical services it is still considered under funded. Many patients under the CNS suffer from long wait times whereas they need to go to the clinic to get a ticket or ficha as early as 6 am without the assurance that they will be attended by a doctor. Public hospitals within the CNS are mostly overcrowded and most often than not, poorly sanitised. 

Private Healthcare Sector 

A majority of expats in Bolivia and locals that can afford often opt to go to private clinics or hospitals where the quality of service and cleanliness is better. These private medical facilities are often more capable than their public counterparts in terms of treating more serious illnesses but one must expect that the cost of services here are also expensive. Private health insurance is widely available in Bolivia and signing up for one can significantly help expats in their medical expenses. Currently, there are two major categories of health insurance in this country: local which covers the cost of care only in Bolivia and international which covers the needs of the policy holder in any country. 

Hospitals and Emergency Numbers 

The ratio of hospital beds to patients is only 1.1 per 1,000, making healthcare in Bolivia a problematic situation. Those who live in the rural areas of the country are deprived of sufficient medical services as well as proper sanitation, which make them vulnerable to dominant diseases in the country like Chagas disease and malaria. Several of the small communities in Bolivia lack health centres and patients who seek medical help often die during long rides in the back of trucks. Most of the time, Bolivian public hospitals do not have the medically advanced equipment to cater to patients and are ill-equipped to handle medical emergencies. This is caused by insufficient funds of the government to provide resources for medical supplies. Meanwhile, private clinics and hospitals have the top-of-the-line medical equipment. Some of the most reliable private hospitals and clinics in the country are: 

Avenue de Los Derechos Humanos, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Tel: +591 77933723 

Tel: (+ 591-3) 347-4370 

Obrajes, Hernando Siles Avenue, Esquina Calle 7 No. 3539 - La Paz, Bolivia

Tel: (591-2) 2784003 

  1. Landaeta No. 1855 Esq. Heroes of Acre, Frente Instituto Americano - La Paz, Bolivia

Tel: (591-2) 2494600


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