As we ring in the new year in 2022, more expats than ever have their eye on Ecuador as a potential country for retirement. As a native Ecuadorian, I feel great pride that my country has topped so many “best retirement destination” lists in the past several years. But many potential expats often share the same question: What is the quality of medical and dental care in Ecuador? To answer that question, let’s look at how health care in Ecuador has evolved in the past several years.
While South American countries have often been presented in North American media as “third-world”, the reality is that the medical landscape has evolved at lightning speed in Ecuador over the last two decades. One important catalyst for this change was the 2007 creation of the Ecuadorian Secretariat for Higher Education (SENESCYT). Between 2007-2017, SENESCYT invested $800 million in international scholarships for over 10,000 Ecuadorian professionals in the medical and STEM fields. This scholarship program was intended to counteract the ingrained class system and the “brain drain” phenomenon that had stymied development in these fields for many years. Prior to 2007, the few international scholarship opportunities were generally reserved for the powerful and connected, and not necessarily the most qualified candidates in Ecuador. But the only requirements to receive a SENESCYT scholarship were: gain admission to a qualified postgraduate program at one of the world’s top universities, and commit to return to Ecuador after graduation to work in either the private or public sector. Additionally, from 2007-2017, over $13 billion was invested in the country’s healthcare infrastructure.
As a result of these major investments, Ecuador now offers a transformed medical landscape with a new generation of highly-trained doctors, many of whom are bilingual, ready to meet the healthcare needs of the thousands of expats who decide to call Ecuador their new home each year. While the public healthcare system is now equipped to meet basic needs, investment in private healthcare has also soared. In the coastal city of Manta, for example, several multi-specialty medical centers have opened in the past few years, with another under construction and more in planning stages. The larger cities of Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca also have many cutting-edge healthcare centers. Throughout Ecuador, one can now find state-of-the-art equipment and expert professionals in modern clinics, and the best part of all: at a fraction of North American costs.
Medications also tend to be much more affordable and easier to obtain here than in North America. For expats who decide to make Ecuador their new home, there are a range of insurance policies available, though many choose to pay out of pocket for routine care as it is generally more affordable than the co-pays they are used to back home. The varied climates in Ecuador offer an opportunity for expats to choose a climate that best fits their health needs. Expats can choose from the cool, drier climate in the mountains or the warm, humid climate of the coast. Manta, in particular, is a popular spot for those with health conditions that require them to stay at sea level for an extended period of time.
Medical and dental tourism are also gaining popularity in Ecuador, as the high quality of care at an affordable price catches the attention of those interested in saving thousands and taking an international vacation at the same time. At my dental practice TopDental, in Manta, our expat patients often ask to take photos of our office to send to family and friends - as proof that there are facilities and care available in Ecuador that are comparable to, or better than what is available back home. Over the past few years, we have received more and more expat patients who are interested in Ecuador as a potential new home and want to take advantage of their exploratory trips to Manta to receive high-quality, affordable dental care. Other medical fields popular with visitors to Ecuador include cosmetic surgery, ocular surgeries, orthopedic surgery, stem cell treatments, and much more. The new SENESCYT online system allows patients to check their Ecuadorian doctors’ credentials, which are registered in the national database. If you are looking for high quality medical or dental care, you will find that Ecuador offers skilled professionals, modern facilities and state of the art equipment, at reasonable prices.
Dr. Victor Carreño, dentist and oral surgeon, is a native of Manta, Ecuador and the owner of TopDental, a multispecialty family dental practice in Manta. He holds a postgraduate degree in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from the University of Manchester and has also trained at the University of Puerto Rico Postgraduate Studies Program in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and at a private dental practice in Denver, Colorado.