Our Experience with the Mexican Health Care Medical System

Drugstore in San Cristobal de las CasasYesterday 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.

We arrived in San Cristobal around 7PM 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 7PM). 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.

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 Mexican 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.


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Author: Jonathan Look

In 2011 Jonathan Look decided to change his life and pursue adventures instead of comfort and possessions. His goal is to travel the world solo; one country at a time, one year at a time. To accomplish this he got rid of most of his possessions, packed up what little he saw as necessities and headed out. His goal is to spend ten years discovering new places, meeting new people and taking the time to learn about them, their values and their place on this tiny planet. He embraces the philosophy that says a person is the sum of their experiences and rejects the fraud of modern consumerism that makes people into slaves of their consumption. He doesn't intend to be modern day ascetic, just more mindful of his place in the world and to make decisions according to that new standard.

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