In my time in Bolivia I have had rabies shots, been to the dentist, to a public and a private hospital and a family planning clinic. All of these were in Sucre but I will tell you about my experiences of healthcare in Bolivia so you have some idea what to expect.
I was bitten by a dog on my hand. It was a small dog on the street. We asked the nearby shop whose dog it was and the shop owner signalled to a nearby house. We knocked on the door a number of times but no-one answered.
Every year the government goes around each city in Bolivia and gives free Rabies vaccines to dogs. If the dog doesn’t have an owner, they put a brightly coloured piece of material on the dog’s neck like a collar. That’s so they don’t vaccinate the same dog twice. If the dog does have an owner then they need to get the dog vaccinated every year (which is free) and should have a card ‘carnet’ to prove the date of the vaccinations.
We wanted to know if the dog had an owner and if so, we wanted to see the dogs ‘carnet de vacunas’, or ‘vaccination card’. There has not been a case of canine rabies in Sucre for a few years so the chance of having rabies was very low. However, we couldn’t confirm that the dog had been vaccinated so I decided to get the rabies shots to be safe.
I found that the place to get the shots is called ‘Banco De Vacunas’ which is located on Calle Urriolagoitia in Sucre. It is very hard to find on Google Maps. Other cities will have similar places and will be called ‘Banco De Vacunas’, but I don’t know where they are located. Most pharmacies, health centres and hospitals should be able to tell you where they are. I am also told that some pharmacies have the rabies shots but are expensive.
Once I found the place to get the rabies shots, I was told that it is only open until 12pm on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. Fortunately, the hospital across the road got in touch with the doctor and I was attended to at 2pm that day.
The shot was free and I had to return every day for 7 days to complete the treatment. They also had a veterinarian who went to the house and checked that the dog was healthy too. It helps if you can give them a street address of the location where the event happened and a description or photo of the dog.
I have been to 2 different dentists in Sucre. Dentists generally work out of their houses and some of the equipment can look pretty old. One good thing is that they are incredibly cheap. You can pay about 50bs per filling.
They usually work on appointments but, in my experience, are never on time. We usually wait about 20 mins to an hour and a half to be seen. If you don’t have an appointment you could enter the waiting room, ring the bell and then wait for the dentist to finish with their current patient. Then you could arrange an appointment.
I went to a public hospital, Hospital Santa Barbara, when I cut my head open climbing an arch at La Recoleta, Sucre. I have a Bolivia Foreigners ID so the process and cost may be different for you but it was very simple and only cost 15bs.
I just filled out some paperwork and paid 15bs. Then I entered the waiting room where I was seen immediately. They offered to shave some hair and stitch it up but as I didn’t want to ruin my hair and take too long, I asked them to just clean the wound. Overall it was an easy and fast.
I went to a private hospital, Hospital Universitario, in Sucre for a surgical procedure. They price of the specialist and hospital care for 2 nights was about 9000bs. I don’t know if that is cheap or not but I am told that the staff at public hospitals are often not professional, are often students, and can sometimes screw things up. So I didn’t take that risk.
There are a huge number of laboratories in Bolivia. You can find them in just about every block. They will run blood, faeces, skin and other tests.
If you are having a serious bout of diarrhoea I suggest you get your stool sampled. I had a friend who came from the Amazon and had giardia. He needed anti-parasite drugs. My step daughter had salmonella and needed antibiotics.
Generally the test results are available the same or next day and they usually want you to pick them up in person.
You can get tested for most sexually transmitted diseases at any laboratory. A good, central lab in Sucre is called ‘Genésis’. There is also a clinic run by SEDES called ITS/VIH/SIDA located on Calle Ayacucho #351.
If you are looking for family planning and women’s health, including gynaecologists, then I would recommend a Marie Stopes clinic. They are located in most major cities and departments in Bolivia and they are an international organisation with international standards of care. You might have to wait a long time (up to 2 or 3 hours) so plan your day around it. Usually it’s best to go very early, just before they open, or when the lunch break finishes.