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  • Mary K. Armstrong

Hospitalized Alone in Mexico

Did you know that Mexico, unlike Canada, offers first-class medical services to non-residents without the need of a referral from your own doctor? That's right: you phone and book an appointment. The bill goes on your credit card.


Medica Sur Hospital, Mexico City
Medica Sur Hospital, Mexico City

Here's an example from my recent Mexican experience. Back in Ontario, I'd been hoping for some time to see a dermatologist. As a teenager, before we knew that sun was harmful, my friends and I fried our skin in baby oil. Then we'd see who could peel off the longest strips of burned skin.


As a result of this adolescent foolishness, I now have to watch carefully for skin cancers. Seeing a dermatologist once a year for a head-to-toe check was one routine. In recent years, however, I haven't been able to join the practice of a dermatologist.


When I arrived in Mexico and learned about their system, I immediately made an appointment with a specialist. A few days later, an expert gave me the head-to-toe skin check I'd been wanting. Besides ruling out skin cancer, she told me how to fix the fungus on my toes and a sore spot that had appeared near my mouth -- all for CAD$45! I intend to make a year visit with her, since I travel there most winters anyway.


Then there's the matter of my lungs, my weak spot. I think I'm in line to see a pulmonary specialist in Ontario, but last I heard, the wait is two years. In Mexico, I asked around for the best candidate to assess my breathing problem. I phoned, made an appointment, and saw a doctor shortly after. Imagine my relief when this expert put to rest a couple of the diagnoses that had been floating around back home. He sent me off for CT scans of my thorax.


By coincidence, a day later I was hit with an attack on my lungs. In the middle of the night, barely able to breathe, I was rushed to a modern hospital. There, I was met by two radiologists and a pulmonary specialist, not to mention nurses and technicians. Together they studied my CT scans and their own fresh x-rays. The doctors all spoke English, and were trained mostly in the US. I was wheeled to the room where I would spend the next couple of days getting the infection under control. Patterns of blue and tan decorated this pleasant space. In Mexican style, a leather couch also serves as an overnight bed for family and visitors.


When mealtime came, I expected the grey, lifeless offerings I'd witnessed in Ontario hospitals. But no! A tastefully presented plate of vegetables and recognizable food appeared. Everything was nutritious and wholesome. Noticeably, there was no coffee. I asked the doctor if they were attempting to model proper nutrition. No, he said, they simply didn't want food and drink to affect patient monitoring. Two women came to my bedside to ensure I was happy with their food. They explained to me that they made up patients' plates three times a day and it was important to them that those in bed enjoyed their food.


Can you imagine? Unhurried doctors who spend time consulting with you in a patient-centred manner, nurses who may speak little English but take time to make sure you're comfortable, food-preparation people who really care whether you like their wholesome food, and so on down the list.


I have no personal experience with Mexican dentists, but I know that many tourists take advantage of the much less expensive expert dentistry, defraying the cost of their holiday with savings on dental work.


Do you have experiences of travelling alone? I'd love to hear from you.

Email me at mary@marykarmstrong.com with the title of this blog in the subject line.

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