Medical services in Guatemala City are generally top-notch, particularly in many private hospitals. Outside the capital, there are several private hospitals providing quality medical care in urban areas. Public facilities such as the Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad Social (IGSS) should be avoided, as they are set up to cater to low-income people with no other alternative and are notoriously understaffed and underfunded. Rural areas are extremely lacking in health care, which has resulted in the presence of Cuban doctors in parts of the highlands who have arrived to help bridge the health-care gap. Asistur can help you find excellent English-speaking doctors for those under its coverage.
In many cases pharmacists sometimes serve as de facto doctors, as prescriptions are not necessary for medications in Guatemala. Patients will often describe symptoms and take something on the pharmacist’s recommendations. Still, it’s always best to see a doctor. Many drugs can be found more cheaply in Guatemala, as they are produced locally by a handful of pharmaceutical companies.
In almost every town, at least one pharmacy will be open all night thanks to a system known as farmacia de turno (on-call pharmacy), in which the local pharmacies stay open on a rotating basis. Local newspapers publish a listing of these pharmacies and sometimes the outlets themselves have a neon sign stating as such.