One expat’s journey to obtain an Ecuadorian disability card — It’s no easy task
By Brad Bosworth
I have been in Cuenca since August 2019. I ride my recumbent trike by the river trails and enjoy the cultural vibe of the city, riding the bus and the people. As I am 61 and a relative youngster, I don’t yet qualify yet the adulto mayor benefits. But I am disabled due to a stroke and thought it would be relatively easy to get the disability benefit card, the CONADIS.
The few locals I talked to said yes, you can get one but didn’t know how.
Late last year I decided to find new health insurance and found information on the CuencaHighLife website. Daniela Cordero advertises here and her company is Cuenca Expat Health Insurance. She explained the various plans, was very pleasant and I signed up for a plan she recommended. At the end of the meeting I mentioned my interest in obtaining a CONADIS card and asked if she could help me. She volunteered to guide me through the process but pointed out that she had never done it before. I want to say right now, Thank you, Daniela.
We started the process in early November and I received my card before Christmas, all thanks to Daniela. It was an interesting but difficult journey that she will not do again.
The first step was seeing a general practitioner doctor at Hospital Militar on Av. Doce de Abril and we thought that would be about all that was needed. Wrong. We showed up at the hospital, which is very old, and were told the GP was called away that day and the appointment was cancelled. I was a bit disappointed but I did get a notice saying that I was in the system.
The receptionist told me the next time we came they would give us great service as they love the gringos.
The next time I showed up early and was sitting across the street in a nice park relaxing. The doctor’s office was very close by and I saw the receptionist coming down the sidewalk and thought to myself, yep, we will get top notch service but unrelated to the fact that I am a gringo.
Daniela and I got in line inside Hospital Militar but the receptionist told me to take a seat: “I will handle this.” In time, she was at the front of the line and explained the situation to the man at the window. He left his window and escorted us down the hallway to the nurses’ station. He had not done that for anyone else; must be because I’m a gringo, I thought.
After the nurse examined me, we went to the GP next door. He informed me that, as my disability is stroke-related, I needed to see the IESS neurologist.
For any of you who have needed to see a specialist at IESS, you know that promptness is not on the menu. Getting the appointment was not easy and Daniela was told, do not call, be persistent and keep showing up at the appointment window. She told me no need for me to go there, her office is close by and she would handle it.
I do not know how often she stopped by but she called in a few favors from a person who works in the front office and I got an appointment. We then had the pleasure of sitting in line at the office of the neurologist in an IESS facility for a few hours.
We got in the neurologist’s office but I was not on the written list, bummer, but lo and behold, I was on the electronic list and the neurologist called the GP and away we went. The neurologist was a bit aloof and talked to Daniela in Spanish about what genes are involved in some strokes but those genetic mutations were rare or nonexistent in native Ecuadorians.
As this is one area of my past expertise, I opined about where one gene involved was studied and that might explain differences in populations in different parts of the world. My past work involved pigs, not people, but a gene is a gene. The neurologist became friendly and down to earth and we talked about the vagaries of genetics. But more importantly, she signed an official form confirming my disability.
The next week we returned to the GP at Hospital Militar with the signed form but, it turned out, we needed to be interviewed by a social worker as well. Her office was next door and we got in right away. She started the process by stating that I must tell the truth and will give up my first born if I lie. The social worker then asked very personal questions, including why I got divorced.
I was going to say it was because my ex did not want to be selfish and not share my good looks and charm with all the other women in the world, but I remembered I promised not to lie. We then returned to the GP, he put all the information in a computer and gave me my CONADIS card stating I was 46% physically disabled.
I have already used my CONADIS card and can take the bus for 15 cents instead of 30.
Such a deal.