By Randy Jackson for The Eye Magazine
Like so many regular winter visitors to Huatulco, I’ve strolled countless times along the sidewalks and the tree-lined pedestrian walkway of Boulevard Chahue. Shopping and errands so often have my sandaled feet swishing me along while taxis toot, traffic zips, and grackles whistle and “eak.” Sometimes though, a shadow crosses this lighthearted perambulation when I pass the IMSS hospital (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social). At such times I am reminded of the phrase, “whistling past the graveyard.”
No doubt this phrase can be interpreted in different ways. For me the meaning is a humorous depiction of a particular human condition – that of nervously ignoring the inevitable. The thing I have been nervously ignoring for too long is the inevitable need of having to use medical services here. But finally, I have resisted the gravitational pull of procrastination, and set out to obtain the information I would need to access medical services in Huatulco.
More specifically, I am interested in private medical services in Huatulco. Mexico has public health services, like the IMSS social insurance system and its hospitals, but for foreigners (like me), it is the private medical services you would need to access. I am happy to share the results of my investigation, which, to be clear, is not a comprehensive review of the private medical services in Huatulco, but rather one person’s findings when seeking to answer three questions:
(1) What are some of the private medical facilities available?
(2) How does one access private medical services?
(3) What do you do in a medical emergency?
Private Medical Facilities and Services – Clinics
There are numerous private medical clinics in Huatulco. At the most basic level, some pharmacies have a doctor available for consultation. A consultation by a physician at one of these pharmacies costs 50 pesos. There are other charges if needed, like to have your blood pressure taken (20 pesos), or to have your ears cleaned (55 pesos). As inexpensive as these consultations are, I think it is safe to say they do not represent the best of what Mexican medical schools can produce. There is a high turnover of doctors at these locations, and I understand that part of their remuneration is a commission on prescriptions, which typically includes vitamins. Do not expect that English will be spoken at these facilities.
Another private clinic I noticed in my investigation was Medico en Casa. These are clinics where you call a central number (call center) or use their website (contact details below) and set up an appointment to meet a doctor at one of the clinic locations, or have the doctor come to your home (as any doctor at any clinic will). These clinics are part of the Hospital San Miguel enterprise, discussed below.
There are numerous stand-alone private medical clinics around Huatulco. As private medicine is a competitive business, however, clinics come and go. One example is the very modern looking Clínica Médica Integral (across from Casa Pepe), which has closed, after having only been open for business for six months.
I interviewed doctors at two private clinics that have been in Huatulco for some years, Dr. Ricardo Antonio Carrillo at Medico Quirúrgica Huatulco, and Dr. Angel Juárez at Clínica del Ángel (contact details below). One question I posed to each of them: if they would recommend tourists/snowbirds establish themselves as clients with their clinics for easier future access. In both cases the response was, “No es necesario.” Keep in mind the vast majority of foreigners will have, and want to have, primary medical care in their home countries. So most doctor visits here are for more urgent medical needs, rather than longer term health management.
Private Medical Facilities and Services – Hospitals
In Huatulco, all private hospitals are also clinics, and some private clinics are also hospitals. By this I mean, at the two private hospitals I investigated, they are also set up for general clinical consultation. They advertise this and have access to a full range of specialists that can be seen there. In the case of Dr. Carrillo at Medico Quirúrgica, he has an operating room and a two-room hospital with 24/7 care when required.
There are two more traditional hospitals, which from my perspective are fully equipped medical facilities, open 24/7, with a doctor on the premises and the ability to handle medical emergencies or medical procedures at any time. These are Centro Médico Oromed Huatulco and Clínica Hospitalaria San Miguel (contact details below). It should be noted that although there is emergency care at both of these hospitals, as of this date, there is no intensive care unit (ICU) at any facility in Huatulco (private or public). However, this will apparently be addressed. Oromed will have their ICU completed in 2022, and San Miguel is planning to build one.
Huatulco is well served by a wide range of medical specialists operating privately. Of note: although many specialists have full time practices here, others visit Huatulco to see patients on a regular basis. Although no referral is necessary, an appointment with a specialist is most easily set up through a clinic or hospital. To get a sense of the breadth of the specializations available in Huatulco, here is a partial list of the specialists I have seen listed at Clínica del Ángel and Oromed:
Physiotherapy, radiology, plastic surgery, pediatrics, neurology, gastroenterology, cardiology, urology, orthopedic surgery, gynecology
How to Access Private Medical Services
Excluding the walk-in pharmacy consultations, you need to phone first for an appointment to access a private medical clinic. Normally you can make an appointment for the same day, or the doctor will come to your home for a higher fee. At the two private hospitals, you can just show up and wait to see a doctor.
There are, of course, a number of other clinics throughout La Crucecita and Santa Cruz. There are online directories of medical facilities in Huatulco, although they are not necessarily complete or up to date; in general, these sites will let you click through to the web page of the facilities they list.
Here is the contact information for the clinics and hospitals I visited.
Dr. Ricardo Carrillo, Médico Quirúrgica Huatulco: This is a clinic with an operating room and hospital rooms available as needed.
Phone: 958-587-6055 (Ph/Whatsapp); receptionist: 958-587-0600
Location: Sabali 403, La Crucecita
Language: English and Spanish
Fees: Consultation fee: $100 USD at clinic, $150 USD home visit, $250 USD home night visit. Credit cards accepted.
Dr. Angel Juárez, Clínica del Ángel: This clinic has a number of doctors and consultations are available with numerous specialists.
Phone: 958-587-1630 (landline); emergencies: 229-109-8375 (Ph/Whatsapp); receptionist: 958-109-6721
Location: on Blvd Chahue across from Cruz Roja).
Website: http://www.medicadelangel.com (The website lists all medical specialties.)
Language: Dr. Juárez speaks English; doctors or specialists with the clinic may or may not speak English.
Fees: A standard consultation fee is 500 pesos at the clinic, 1,000 pesos for a home visit. Credit cards accepted.
Medico en Casa: This is a call center for medical referrals operated by the San Miguel clinic. Once you have made contact, you ask to see a doctor at one of the clinic locations (Santa Cruz, San Miguel Hospital [Sector I], , or Sectors U2 or H3), or have the doctor come to your home.
Phone: 958-117-4029, 958-186-4825
Facebook Page: medicoencasaintegral
Language: The call center has English speakers available, although you will probably have to wait on hold for English service (my experience).
Fees: A standard consultation fee is 400 pesos, although it will vary depending on location. Credit cards accepted.
Centro Médico Oromed Huatulco: A full-service clinic and hospital with emergency service and a doctor and nurse on staff 24/7. X-Ray, Laboratory, Pharmacy, Operating Room, full list of consulting specialists. All doctors and a paramedic I interviewed recommended Oromed as their preferred private hospital for Huatulco because it has the highest standards of professional medical services.
Phone: 958-121-4104 (Ph/Whatsapp)
Location: Behind Marina Park Plaza in Chahue near the Municipal building
Languages: Some English is spoken, depending on the person you are dealing with.
Fees: A standard clinical consultation is 500 pesos. There are fees for all additional services. Credit cards are accepted.
Clínica Hospitalaria San Miguel: A full-service clinic and hospital with emergency service and a doctor and nurse on staff 24/7. X-Ray, Laboratory, Pharmacy, Operating Room, full list of consulting specialists.
Phone: 958-112-1473 (Ph/Whatsapp)
Location: Blvd Chahue, turn at Goodyear Tire, go two blocks
Languages: Some English is spoken, depending on the person you are dealing with.
Fees: A standard clinical consultation is 500 Pesos. There are fees for all additional services. Credit cards are accepted.
What to Do in a Medical Emergency
Huatulco has a 911 emergency call service. There is a call center for the coastal area of Oaxaca, including Huatulco. Do not expect that any English will be spoken by the call center operator. In my interviews with doctors, I was told that a 911 response is slow (although ‘slow’ was not quantified).
As a result, I personally would prioritize my response in this order:
FIRST: If at all possible, drive the patient or get a cab to Centro Médico Oromed Huatulco.
SECOND: Call a physician for an emergency home visit. The physician will assess the situation and arrange an ambulance if required.
THIRD: Call 911, when the ambulance arrives tell the paramedic to go to Oromed Hospital.
Note: Cruz Roja is a private, or at least it is not part of the public, medical service in Huatulco (and in Mexico overall). They can be accessed by phoning 911 or directly at 958-587-1188. Do not expect any English will be spoken. Cruz Roja responds to about 25 – 30 calls a month in Huatulco. They have 4 ambulances, a private, fee-for-services clinic, and a doctor on call. Cruz Roja is staffed 24/7 by volunteer, fully qualified paramedics. There is no cost for ambulance emergency response with a paramedic. You will be taken to the hospital of your choice.
Other Notes on Private Medical Services in Huatulco
Travel Insurance: As of March 2022, there doesn’t seem to be any private medical service in Huatulco that would be paid directly by foreign travel insurance companies. In my case, with travel medical insurance purchased in Canada, I could be reimbursed for my out-of-pocket medical costs IF I had first phoned the 1-800 number to clear the expense with the insurance company. I would then have to submit a receipt to the insurance company for reimbursement.
Medical Evacuation Insurance: Available for Huatulco through commercial providers. You would need to make these arrangements in advance of any emergency; policies are complicated, some do not offer much, and there can be age restrictions. Research required.
Air Ambulance Service: Available in Huatulco. It is arranged by a doctor. Both Dr. Carrillo and Dr. Juárez have arranged air ambulance transfers. The cost for an air ambulance to Mexico City – where there are world class private hospitals – is currently about $10,000 USD. It is my understanding that the cost for an air ambulance, i.e., medical evacuation, to the USA or Canada would be substantially higher, in the $50-60,000 USD range. The ambulance transfer cost to the Huatulco airport is currently 5,000 pesos. There will also be a cost for the doctor to arrange the transfer.
Thinking Ahead: Before visiting a doctor, I would recommend that you write down the Spanish words for the symptoms experienced. Also (you might want to practice this), using Google translate on your phone, you can touch the microphone symbol and speak in English – this will be translated to Spanish text.
In summary, I have found that Huatulco has private medical services for substantially all medical needs. Also, there is no shortage of capacity, so the services can be accessed with little or no waiting (remember to always call first). We have all heard stories from the United States of outrageous hospital charges, but that is not the case in Huatulco or in Mexico overall. Costs for virtually any private medical service are most likely easily affordable for most foreigners visiting Huatulco.