This is the first of a series of articles about the Mexican medical system. This article provides a quick overview of the local health care system and how it differs from what we Northerners are familiar with. Rest assured! You can have excellent medical care in our paradise.
Excellent Health Care
For the most part, any medical services you are used to accessing in Canada or the United States, are available here in Huatulco. The medical services offered in and around this area are good quality and likely similar to what you are used to.
- The different services are not all located in one large medical mall or facility – you will have to go to different places,
- Doctors and other medical providers may come to your home, and
- Prices will be considerably less here than in your home country.
The first thing to consider when you are looking into a healthcare provider or any other professional is to see if they have proper credentials. In Mexico that usually means a “cedula”. A cedula is a professional license granting the legal right to practice. All attorneys, doctors, architects, accountants, engineers, notaries, dentists, nurses, chiropractors and other professionals must have this license to practice legally. The university training here is excellent and there is some ground-breaking research going on in Mexico. Also, most Mexican medical professionals have gone to Canada or the U.S. for training at some point.
Accessing the doctor or getting laboratory tests is different than what we are used to in the north. Here, you can call a doctor and they will come to your home, or you can go to their office. Most pharmacies have doctors that you can see for a small fee and then they provide you with a prescription that the pharmacy fills. Kind of a one stop shop. This is really useful when you have something straightforward like a flu bug, strep throat or a head/chest cold and need something fast.
Prices are lower here than the northern countries. Many people who don’t have insurance policies find the prices perfectly manageable. Doctor visits can be 250-600 pesos approximately, laboratory tests are in that same range, ultra sounds, x-rays and cat scans vary but 500 to a few thousand pesos is a common range. A friend of mine had an emergency surgery for a hernia including the cat scan, anesthesia, a couple days at the hospital and all follow-up for the equivalent of under $4000 CAD/ $3000 USD. It is good to ask at the beginning so you are not surprised about the costs and have the money available. You will be asked to pay at the time of service.
Pharmacies – Most pharmacies are open long hours and some in the area are open 24 hours. Nearly all medications are available without a prescription. However, antibiotics need a doctor’s prescription and there are a few others that require one. But there is usually a doctor in the pharmacy or next to it who can help you by making a quick diagnosis and writing the script. The small additional fee for this service (30-50 pesos) is well worth it if you are feeling awful and want quick relief.
Tests – Most testing can be done right here in Huatulco in Crucecita. There are several laboratories. You walk in, ask for a test (blood, urine, etc.) and then you take the results to your doctor. It is likely your doctor will tell you to get a particular test but not essential. If you know that you need a certain test and can read the results yourself, that’s fine. But if a doctor asks you to get a test, it is up to you to do it and return to your doctor for the results and diagnosis.
Also, there are more extensive diagnostic services such as x-rays, Catscans, and Ultrasounds in nearby Puerto Escondido at La Clinica Angel del Mar. Some other medical specialists are located in Puerto Escondido as well. A very well-known dermatologist has her office there and other specialized services are located in the town.
Usually your doctor will help contact the specific doctor or lab and get the appointment time arranged. They can also let you know the cost. People drive the coast road or take a bus to Puerto Escondido and often spend the day as it is a lovely town right on the coast with some good restaurants and sight-seeing.
Doctors – Here in Huatulco, doctors can be seen at several private clinics and some will come to your home. They are also available at many of the pharmacies where you can walk in, see a doctor for about 30-50 pesos and then take the prescription next door to the pharmacy to have it filled.
Emergency – The emergency services are the Red Cross & Ambulance services. You should keep their numbers in your phone for urgent situations. You can walk into the Red Cross at the main intersection in Crucecita and for a small fee they will see you and perform many services. I got stung by a scorpion and they saw me in just a few minutes, gave me an injection and I was on my way for 50 pesos.
Natural medicines – Chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and naturopathic professionals are available in this area and access is easy. Prices will vary but it is usually extremely reasonable.
MEXICAN HEALTH SYSTEM
As a foreigner you may enroll in either Seguro Popular or IMSS, two of the national health systems. It usually depends on you having a residency status (permanent or temporary).
In following articles, I will explore each of these topics in more detail.
I would be terribly remiss if I did not also mention that the ocean and the sun are healing all by themselves. To be in this environment makes a person feel so much better on a daily basis than greyness, ice and snow.
Huatulco is truly paradise!