Yesterday we braved Mexico Highway 199 through Chiapas’s Zapatista country to return to San Cristobal de las Casas for the Día de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) celebration. Lately, my wife and I have been spending a lot of time in the water SCUBA diving and snorkeling in Xcalak and she wound up with what turned out to be a minor ear infection. It was because of this that we again encountered the Mexico health care system.
We arrived in San Cristobal around 7 PM and while walking on the Andador when we noticed a sign for medical consultations. We walk up a flight of stairs and found a small waiting room. There was no receptionist so we knocked on the adjoining door and a young doctor answered (Yes, the doctor was in at 7 PM). We tried to explain the situation in our still elementary Spanish and the doctor told us with a smile, “We can do this in English if you like”.
He showed us into a small but well equipped and spotlessly clean examination room. After several questions and an examination of her ears, he told us there was nothing to worry about and wrote a prescription for some ear drops. He also recommended Ibuprofen for her discomfort and blowing bubbles with chewing gum to keep things moving around.
When it was time to leave we asked the cost. He told us he was affiliated with the pharmacy next door and they pay his salary so there was no charge. He also explained that even though they paid his salary we were not obligated to use that pharmacy. We happily thanked him and went to his affiliated pharmacy.
- Street Food | Cervecita Dulce or Sweet Beer
- Road Trip to the Pacific Coast of Chiapas
- Bicycling from San Cristobal to Chiapa de Corzo
While we were waiting for the pharmacist to fill the prescription the doctor surprised us by coming to find us and tell us he had forgotten to tell her to put cotton in her ears when she showered to keep them dry. We thanked him again and a few minutes later the prescription and a bottle of Ibuprofen was ready. Total cost; less than $10 USD. Total time from deciding to go to the doctor, diagnosis, and prescription in hand; less than 30 minutes.
This was our second impromptu encounter with the Mexico health care system. Granted, both problems have been minor and haven’t required a lot of equipment to do the diagnosis. We didn’t have appointments either time and both encounters were handled, quickly, efficiently and professionally. I am sure the doctors could have ordered a lot of extra tests and follow up visits but their minimum necessary approach to minor problems was just what we needed.
For something major, I am not sure what we would do. I have used the American medical system all of our lives and it too has served us well, if extremely expensively. It is, however, wonderful to see a system that is relatively inexpensive, non-bureaucratic and didn’t involve a for-profit health care insurer getting between us and the doctor.