And Why You Would Want To
Shortly after arriving in Huatulco for the first time, I got sick. I spent a few days at home just hoping for the best. I was not sure if it was something I ate, the result of a mosquito bite or just the stress of travel and a new environment. My head hurt, my stomach felt like it was doing somersaults and my bones hurt.
I called a friend who had lived in Huatulco for several years. She took me to a “Farmacia Similares”.
There are various options for visiting a doctor in Huatulco. A classic doctor or a general medical doctor can be found with whom you have your regular appointments for check-ups and preventative medicine. The convenience of these appointments is usually astounding. By giving a call to make an appointment, you can usually get in to see your regular doctor within a couple of days or a week maximum. When you have a straightforward stomach bug or strep throat or the like, you can easily and quickly visit the pharmacy doctor.
What are the “Farmacias Similares?”
Farmacias Similares are a chain of pharmacies that sell generics or their store brand medicines. These pharmacies have the added convenience of a small doctor’s office attached to them. The medical doctor gives you a low-cost consultation and dispenses your prescription. The pharmacy sells you the medicines. While openly entrepreneurial, I still consider it a win-win situation.
You walk into the doctor’s office from the street. I was glad my friend was with me because on top of feeling so down, I did not speak more than about six words of Spanish. How was I going to manage to express myself to this doctor? All I wanted to do was go home and crawl back into bed.
My friend knew enough Spanish to explain my predicament. And the medical doctor knew enough English to discuss my symptoms. He was young but he had his Cedula (a professional license) on the wall and that made me feel better. The older we get, the younger the professionals look and the harder it is to know that they actually graduated from high school let alone a Medical College! It was good to see official evidence of his degree and standing.
What Does the Medical Exam Involve at the Pharmacy?
I did not have to disrobe or go into a waiting area or wait forever and a day. At the desk he took my blood pressure and did the usual checks: temperature, eyes, tongue, ears, heart rate, breathing sounds. He concluded that I had picked up some bug and was not going to die quite yet. He wrote out a prescription for some medicines including an antibiotic. Antibiotics are one of the medicines that require a prescription. Most drugs are available over the counter without one.
The doctor made sure that I understood what I was supposed to do: rest, fluids, take medicines on time. If I did not feel better in about three or four days, I should go to a medical facility for further tests. But he was confident that his plan would have me back on my feet in no time.
The entire experience took about 20 minutes. This is a huge difference from my long waits in doctors’ offices in the U.S. or Canada. There is something to be said about getting immediate attention when you feel rotten. And to be home again fast!
How Much Does It Cost?
I paid the doctor the required 30 pesos, thanked him and we went next door to the Farmacia Similares. They promptly found all my medicines. I was shocked that the cost was a fraction of what I would have paid in the U.S.! Seven days of antibiotic for 60 pesos!
Thankfully, I was back on my feet in just a few days and did not require further medical assistance. I continue to be appreciative of this amazingly simple medical experience and the availability. The service has the added benefit of quickly getting you a prescription if you already know what you need in terms of emergency or preventive care.
There was another person walking up to see the doctor as I left the pharmacy. I’m sure that person received the same efficient and thoughtful care I received. It is reassuring to me that I can go to almost any pharmacy in Huatulco for this service.
When Can You See a Doctor at the Pharmacy?
And for the record, there are a few 24-hour pharmacies that offer the doctor consultation as well as others being open until 9pm. It is a decent alternative to the Emergency Room at the Red Cross and the low fee makes a doctor consultation affordable for almost everyone.