Healthcare in Chile
Healthcare in Chile consists of two tiers: the private sector and the public sector. Expats can expect affordable and high-quality medical treatment from both sectors. The quality of healthcare in Chile tends to vary regionally, however, with modern equipment and facilities available in Santiago and other major cities but significantly reduced access in smaller towns and rural areas.
Public healthcare in Chile
Chilean nationals and legal residents have access to public healthcare through the government-run Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA) scheme with additional cover via privately run health insurers. State hospitals can be crowded, and while they do offer an acceptable quality of care, private hospitals are more likely to offer the standard of care which expats will be accustomed to.
Private healthcare in Chile
Generally speaking, most expats won’t have access to free public healthcare benefits unless they have residency and are paying taxes in Chile. There are various private health insurance companies in Chile that allow members access to private healthcare in Chile. These are popular among expats who don’t qualify for FONASA.
Most doctors in the private and public sector alike are well-trained, many of them educated overseas and able to speak English. Patients do not need a referral to see a specialist and expats may find that the concept of a local General Practitioner in Chile is not that common, as most doctors specialise in a particular aspect of medicine.
Health insurance in Chile
Public health insurance is administered by the Chilean government and is available through the FONASA, which covers most of the population and allows free access to public healthcare facilities and subsidised access to private medical care facilities.
FONASA is publicly funded through a deduction from employees’ monthly income. Membership is limited to citizens and foreigners paying local taxes in Chile. There are also a number of other government offices providing niche services to the healthcare market, such as Primary Health Organisations. Government hospitals are required to provide free healthcare to members of the population who do not have healthcare coverage. However, the facilities available are not usually as sophisticated as those found in private healthcare facilities.
Pharmacies in Chile
It is not difficult to find pharmacies in Chile, and many of them are open 24 hours a day. Pharmacists are usually well trained and many drugs that may require a prescription elsewhere are available over the counter in Chile.
Expats should be sure to note down the generic names of any prescription medication they may be taking, as brand names tend to vary from country to country.
Health hazards in Chile
Expats can rest assured that Chile has few health hazards, and those that are present are generally well controlled.
Tap water is generally safe to drink, but expats should exercise caution in very remote or rural areas. On arrival, expats may experience a bout of travellers’ sickness but this is quite normal and is simply the body adjusting to unfamiliar food and water.
Pre-travel vaccinations for Chile
Expats should consult a doctor or travel clinic well before leaving for Chile for the most up-to-date information regarding possible health risks. Apart from routine vaccinations such as polio and measles-mumps-rubella, it is recommended that new expats are vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid, while some may also be advised to get shots for hepatitis B and rabies.
Emergency services in Chile
Most hospitals in Chile have emergency facilities available as well as their own ambulances. Expats should be aware that not all emergency facilities are operational 24 hours a day.
Medical air evacuation within and from Chile is possible but can be very expensive. It is recommended that expats have additional travel and health insurance to cover the cost of air evacuation from Chile in the event of any serious emergency.
In the case of a medical emergency, expats can dial 131.