México is full of surprises and contradictions, among them is the fact that Mexican doctors are as well-trained, and in some cases, more highly trained, than doctors in the USA, and in nearly every case the services those doctors provide are ever so much more affordable. Broadly speaking, there are three levels of care available in México, including in Puerto Peñasco.
One Christmas day I took myself to the Hospital General, which can be thought of as the local “county hospital.” The building is basic, the doors are open 24/7, and they take care of everyone who walks through the door, charging very modest fees for their services. One recent Christmas day I already knew I had my annual case of bronchitis, but when breathing became more difficult, and my medication seemed to be failing, after reaching my doctor and learning he was out of town, I took myself to the general hospital. I hardly had time to sit in the waiting room before being seen by first a triage nurse, then a doctor, and soon learned that in addition to difficulty breathing, my blood pressure was dangerously high. I was tucked into a bed, given medication, both oral and IV, stabilized, and in the morning released with prescriptions and advice to see my own doctor for follow-up. Cost? Roughly $50 in US dollars – crazy low!
Many people, including foreigners who choose to live in México with a Permanent Resident visa from Mexican immigration, purchase IMSS (National Social Security Institute) health insurance from the Mexican Government. The cost is quite reasonable – $6,150mx, or about $365 for my age group last year – for an annual policy. After some qualifiers during the first year, the insurance covers most policy holders for “usual” wellness care, as well as for sick and emergency care. IMMS is México’s most popular health program, so the clinics and hospitals tend to be crowded, and wait times can be long, but most people agree that the care is excellent. Necessary surgeries are covered by the insurance, as are necessary medical devices, and services such as physical therapy, as prescribed by your doctor. There are no co-pays. Prescription medications are not covered. The IMSS clinics in Puerto Peñasco are located within the hospital. They see patients by appointment, but one usually must go to the clinic to get an appointment. The hospital is open 24/7, and is where patients with IMSS health insurance go in case of emergency. IMSS has many specialty hospitals and clinics located all over México, so a person who needs a particular type of care may be referred to a facility in another town, or sometimes another state, or even another country, for the best of care.
Private health care may be paid by any of a palette of health insurance policies sold in the marketplace, or may be paid out of pocket. I recently underwent a hip replacement, for which my IMSS insurance would have sent me to Ciudad Obregon, about a 10-hour drive, for surgery by a doctor of their choice, much as a PPO in the USA works. Because I wanted the freedom to pick my own surgeon, and wanted the surgery to be performed closer to home, I opted to have my hip replaced in a private hospital by a very talented, highly-recommended orthopedic surgeon with a fine reputation. The results were excellent, and the surgery cost under $10,000 – about the same amount, or a bit less, as a year of health insurance premiums, plus my co-pays and deductibles, in the USA would have cost. Many people prefer private care because of shorter wait times than at the IMSS hospitals, and more options for service. The truth is that many of the doctors who provide private care are also on the work schedule at either the Hospital General or the IMSS hospital, or both, and the level of care provided is the same, regardless of the facility.
Medical tourism, currently in its infancy in Puerto Peñasco, is a rapidly growing industry that is aimed at tourists who want elective medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery, and other non-essential procedures at lower prices than they will pay at home. The patients expect, and get, excellent medical care in state-of-the-art facilities, at excellent prices. Recovery here in Paradise is a bonus.
What do you do if you are visiting Paradise for the weekend or a vacation, and someone in your party gets sick? You will take your ailing vacationer to a medical clinic – more on that below. What if someone in your party has a heart attack, or breaks a leg or sustains an injury that requires emergency medical attention? Call 911! Get an ambulance! The Red Cross will respond with an ambulance staffed by a driver and at least one paramedic. They will ask where you want your loved one to be taken. Unless you have IMSS insurance, your choices for treatment are either the Hospital General or one of a number of private medical facilities. There are several good ones, some of which I have used over the 16 years that I have lived here. My preference is Clinica San José, located on Blvd. Benito Juarez in the heart of the city, with a 2nd location on Sandy Beach open weekends. They are open 24 hours, always with a doctor on duty, and usually someone on duty speaks English. I have moved my routine medical care to Clinica San José, where I found a doctor I am crazy about. I have actually referred friends who live in the USA without health insurance, to Dra. Yolanda Edith Venegas Valdez, and they really like her too. And we love Nurse Manuela Valenzuela, who is the best at starting IV’s in difficult veins! Through personal experience, I found that Clinica San José is well-equipped to manage serious emergencies, with radiology, EKGs, even a fully-equipped surgical suite and hospital beds, onsite. Clinica San José operates its own ambulance fleet with dedicated paramedics, and can take patients to the border for transfer to a US ambulance for transport for treatment in the USA. They can also arrange the airlift of critical patients to other locations for treatment. Clinica San José accepts cash in pesos or in dollars, and MasterCard and VISA cards, so you can avoid multiple trips to the ATM machine in order to pay in cash. Again, charges are much more economical than for similar services in the USA; my emergency surgery, performed in the clinic, cost less than $1,500.
You might want to program the phone number for Clinica San José into your phone; the Mexican number is 638-383-5121, from a USA phone 011-52-638-383-5121. If you need an ambulance, you may want to call Clinica San José instead of calling 911, because the Clinica San José ambulances usually have an English-speaking attendant onboard, and they will take you directly to the clinic. As well, you may want to program the number of Dra. Venegas into your phone. You can call her any time of the day or night at 011-52-1-638-107-2368 from a USA phone, or 638-107-2368 from a local cell phone, and she will meet you at the clinic.
While it is fervently hoped that you will not need emergency medical care while vacationing in Rocky Point, hopefully this overview of medical services increases your level of comfort for your visits. Remember that Mexican medical providers are extremely well-trained, highly skilled medical professionals, and they are available to take care of the medical needs of you and your family while you are here in Puerto Peñasco. You may find that, like my friend, you’re seduced by excellent care, provided by a consummate professional, after a very short wait, for a very reasonable price, and decide to get all your medical care here in Paradise!