Medicine in Mexico

We’ve been asked, What will you do if you get sick or need a doctor?  You’re in MEXICO, for heaven’s sake!  Oh, horror of horrors!  Their health care can’t possibly be trustworthy!  Or can it?

Well, our plan is, if we need to, we’ll go to the doctor here.  We don’t have any insurance.  We’d rather (to borrow a quote) pay for what IS instead of what MIGHT BE.  Here in Mexico and most all the other countries we plan to visit over the next several years, it’s actually possible to pay for your care out of pocket!  Really! (more on that later)

I purposely avoided going to a doc before we left the States, since we really couldn’t afford (translate:  didn’t want to pay exorbitant prices for) a doc visit and medicine for a little infection under my toenail.  So after we got settled, I chose a doc from a local expat forum and went in.  He was a very nice young doc, excellent English, took a good history, did a basic exam, and sent me for blood work.  He says I’m supposed to be immune to this type of infection.  I think he already knew what my blood work was going to show.

I took his order for tests around the corner to the lab where a couple of lovely, friendly ladies who really didn’t speak much English took my blood and payment and told me to pick up the results the next day after 2:00.  I have fainted in the US from lab techs digging the needle around to make it go into the vein and I had the bruises to show for it. But this tech was so good that I was surprised to hear a hissing sound and had to turn and look to make sure that it was my blood filling the vial!  So much for my needle phobia.

Back to the doc with my results:  Yep, diabetes!  WHAT???  He gave me my instructions and prescriptions to go fill at the farmacia. (Oh, boy, I hope all the forms are in English!)  I went into the Farmacia Guadalajara (the Ajijic branch), gave the lady my RXs, she went and got the boxes, I paid and left.  No red tape, no paperwork, no bother, AND very inexpensive medicine!

However, then the liver tests came back and the doc requested I come in to go over treatment plans.  Oh, great.  Now what?  After a consult/discussion, he sent me to Guadalajara for a CAT scan of my abdomen to see why my bilirubin numbers are so high.  He said I could go locally for an ultrasound, but it would be better to examine all the organs.  He called for me and made the appointment, gave me the order complete with map, and sent me on my way. Hm, wonder what this will cost!  But it has to be less than paying outlandish premiums and meeting a very high deductible, then 20% like back home, right?

At the big lab in the big city I went in and the tech scared the living crapola out of me – for no reason.  I think it’s the English/Spanish thing.  Partly.  (And my absolute phobia of medical procedures since being traumatized by The Exorcist at age 11.)  He said, “We have to put in your vein medicine to paint the organs and it will be hot, uncomfortable, but for a short time.”  I took that to mean that my arm was going to burn off as I groan and writhe and fight tears.  (Okay, this is going to be BAD – suck it up!)  Then they said I needed a full bladder, so I had to drink 4 cups of water down.  Then she came back and said maybe some coffee would speed it up, so I drank 2 cups of Nescafe, then two more glasses of water to wash that out of my mouth as I nervously waited.  The ocean in my gut!

Finally the tech gave me a clean cotton gown (nice long, wide one that covered very nicely, thank you very much!) and I went in and laid on the plank with a pillow.  They put a foam thing under my knees, stuck a needle in my arm (hardly felt that either!), and hooked it up to a drip.  Arms overhead and they left.  So far so good – no fire – and in I rolled, under the arch.  Back and forth, hold your breath, out again.  I didn’t feel anything go into my vein.  She came in and checked my needle and put my arms on my stomach and told me to relax and left for a few.  Still didn’t feel anything.  I started giggling when I though about relaxing though, and wondered if I was high.  I didn’t think so – dangit!  Then she came back in, put my arms back over my head in a slightly different position and left, and in I rolled again.  This time I did feel some heat, but it was in my abdomen, and it was just a weird warmth.  No fire down my arm!  Yay!  Then I was done.  I’m to pick up my results at the cashier window in one hour.  That’s it?  Wow.

This whole experience was great.  I simply went in (we were about 45 minutes early), showed them my slip from the doc, they looked up my appointment, I paid.  I waited maybe 15 minutes, went in, drank all the liquid, had the procedure, out, get results, leave.  No pages of paperwork to fill out  here either!  Really!  I got all my CT Scan films and a CD, and they email the doc with the results too.

From reading other travel blogs, I was ready for the building to be kind of shabby, and in the US I would not have set foot in it.  But they put their money into cleanliness, good modern equipment, and professionalism instead of fancy, costly buildings.  Same with my personal doc.  He’s just by himself  with his computer in his consultorio on a cobblestone side street.  Fine with me!  I don’t like paying for the unnecessary fancy accoutrements found everywhere back home.

After all this, I had a reaction to the dye with my meds, so to stop feeling awful and drained, Dr. Loza sent me to the farmacia to get IV supplies to take to the clinic in Ajijic to have them administer it.  Walked in with my stuff, they took me to a little room, and a nurse hooked me up and came back now and then to check on me.  Her English was excellent as well.  She was also very good and didn’t hurt me when putting the catheter in my hand.  I’m going to have to be over having a needle phobia now – it’s just silly!  The clinic always looks busy from the outside, but inside was clean and nice and there was no waiting – and, once again, no red tape and paperwork!  Awesome!

Okay, so here’s the bottom line:

|— | Initial office visit/doc consult and history: | $500 pesos/ $38.99 USD | Lab work: complete blood workup: | $750 pesos/$58.49 USD | Doc consult office visit: | $300 pesos/$23.39 | Farmacia Rx: | $29 pesos/$2.26 for 60 days’ worth | Lab work: complete liver profile workup: | $700 pesos/$54.59 | Doc office visit on liver, sent to get CAT scan: | $ zero pesos | Doc regular office visit/consult/exam: | $300 pesos/$23.39 | Big city lab CAT scan: | $4,500 pesos   $355 USD | Doc consult on CAT, sent for IV: | $300 pesos/$23.39 | Farmacia:  IV bottle, tubing, needle catheter: | $106.30/$8.29 | Other Rx: | $245.90/$19.18 | Ajijic clinic to administer the IV on a bed for 1 hour + B12 vitamins I forgot at pharmacy: | $450 pesos/$35.09 |=== | GRAND TOTAL | $7,681 pesos/$598.97 USD |—

And that, my friends, is less than one month of insurance premiums for one of us, had we been paying them!  And I have in my hands the originals of all the blood tests and CAT scan in case I want to review them, look up something on the internet, or go have a second opinion.   No muss, no fuss, sane and logical here in Mexico.

For more pictures, click here!



Court reporter turned internet bum