The type of medical provision on the islands at the moment may sway your decision on whether the islands are for you.
The islands of Sao Vicente and Santiago have more medical facilities than Sal and the other islands. Sal Island does have a hospital in Espargos, however serious injuries or medical problems usually require treatment at the hospital on either Sao Vicente or Santiago. If there are further complications at the hospital in Santiago then ideally its best that those with medevac health cover get to the nearest advanced hospital facility which, since 2015 is the Canaries. Please note, costs can vary for air ambulance evacuation, depending of the condition of the patient and where they are taken. One patient's medevac costs were around 35,000 euros, others may have paid more or less, but it depends on many dfferent factors.
Expats or foreign nationals that require serious medical care generally travel to other countries to receive it, either through the health system
in that country (if they qualify) or through private health insurance. Cape Verdean nationals will also seek medical care abroad if possible
especially if they have some association with another country e.g the Netherlands, Portugal, France etc!
Medical care may be sought in the home countries of foreign nationals living in Cape Verde. In emergency situations, people needing evacuating to a hospital abroad, may in certain circumstances (with authorisation of doctors and their health and travel insurance) be medevaced by air ambulance to hospitals in Dakar or to Gran Canaria or Tenerife, UK or other countries, the flight may take 2hrs and 15minutes from Sal Island to the Canaries, but will depend on the plane used and which island airport you are departing from initially. There may be a number of medevac operators in Cape Verde, they would have different costs. Many expats consider getting Medevac Heathcare Insurance cover, but not many may have the financial resources to support the monthly payments. The reason for this is that many of those living here may be retired, earning low income or just don't have the money to support this additional but potential life saving service.
There are often those that live alone and find that cover for a single person is more expensive than for a couple or for a family living abroad. There are other considerations affecting the price of healthcare for expats such as age, previous medical and health conditions.
There are medical services that can provide medevac expatriation from Cape Verde by sea and air. It may be that someone may need to be transported from one island (without an airport) by sea, to another island with an airport before they can be expatriated by air. There are no helicopters for medevac transfers from an island without an airport.
The costs can be extremely high to medivac someone who doesn't have health insurance cover if they are unfit to travel by plane on a charter flight back to their country safely, without Doctor's approving it. If you don't have health insurance you may be in for a long stay in Cape Verde until everything can be sorted out medically, financially and insurance wise, in the meantime your health or medical condition may deteriorate further, the consequences being further recovery time, if at all!!
If Tour Operators are aware of someone being unfit to travel, they may not allow you to fly with them. If you can't be transferred under medical supervision abroad, you may not even have the opportunity to be flown to the hospital in Praia on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde. Another consideration with being kept in hospital in Cape Verde is that you need help with translation and supply of meals and toiletries.
One Doctor on Sal made the following comment in 2008; 'Even though British Nationals may have had the 'Hepatitis A' vaccine which lasts 10 years, (as a combination vaccine in the UK), those that live on the islands should have the 'Hepatitis A' vaccine every 12months (in June), as new strains are passed on from person to person.
In 2017, a number of expats on Sal obtained their yellow fever jab as it was one of the things that was required when applying for Residency in Cape Verde. However none of those that applied for residency were asked for documental proof that they had received the jab.
NOTE: Some insurance companies may require you to have vaccinations if travelling to Cape Verde. If you don't have the vaccinations and become ill during or after your trip, you may not be covered for medical insurance. Please read the requirements and small print of medical, health or travel insurance policies.
Response times of emergency services on the islands are not quick.
Fire engines and staff could not attend one restaurant fire in Santa Maria, Sal Island in 2016 because the fire engines were required to be on standby at Sal airport. The wooden restaurant was completely destroyed.
Police may respond quicker on some islands than others.
There is a private ambulance service which operates in Santa Maria, Sal Island called Emermedical.
In case of emergency, dial the following numbers, but be aware, staff may not understand English or other languages:
Hospital - 130
Fire-brigade – 131
Police – 132
Detective force – 800 11 34
There are more fly's around in the hotter months, they can be really annoying and difficult to keep off food or in drinks.
Mosquitos can be annoying too, there are mosquito coils you can burn in your room, but these can give off strong odours which may be irritating. You should bring mosquito protection with you, you may be lucky and not get bit, but it is better to take preventative measures than suffer after being bitten.
There are Pharmacies on many of the islands, however they may run out of stock or not have certain items that you need during your stay, so bring medication with you.
There are physiotherapists on the main bigger islands, unsure if there are any on the smaller islands.
Again, there are Dentists of the main bigger or tourists islands.
Keep in mind some islands have less infrastructure than the main and tourist islands in Cape Verde. All islands are prone to having power cuts. Power cuts mean no lighting in some areas. Hotels will have their own generators. If there is no power then the water supply won't work, no showers, tap water, or water to flush toilets. For hygiene purposes, if you are not staying in a hotel, you may want to consider storing 5ltr bottles of tap water for washing and cleaning purposes. A small torch may be useful if venturing out at night.
We have some useful numbers within our Island Pages, there are also some contacts provided by the British Embassy in their notes, on the British Government website and other Government websites. You may also want to know a bit more about Health Care on Sal Island.
Please also check travel, health and medical insurance to see what activities are covered or not covered when you are in Cape Verde.