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Emergency Medical Care in Mexico: A Halloween Fiesta & ER Visit All in One Night!

What would a Halloween Bash be without it ending in the ER with your 12 year-old-boy who took a hard fall to the face, resulting in two of the brackets from his braces getting embedded into the underside of his upper lip?

Ouch is right!

The connection between a mother and child is powerful...I literally feel physical pain (and angst!) when my children are in any type of harm’s way—not to mention a fair amount of panic and worry!

Gathering up my family members and getting out of the school fiesta and my son to the ER was my ONLY goal. Anything else that stood in my way was likely not going to see the kinder, softer side of me. Like my boy says, “Don’t poke the Mama Bear”. 

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Cross-Cultural Celebrations! Halloween in Mexico!

We pulled up to the ER entrance of Hospital San Javier in Puerto Vallarta just before midnight and were greeted by two attendees who opened the door for us and directed us in. We explained to the receptionist what the situation was, handed over both my and my son’s Permanent Resident ID cards and waited only a few minutes before a nurse took my son’s vitals and a look into his mouth. 15 minutes later we were being seen by the doctor. 

Our entire family was welcomed back into her consultorio (office) and after doing my motherly job of explaining in the best Spanish I could what had occurred, I excused myself from the room to avoid any trickle down effect of my nerves to my son.

How the doctor was going to attempt to remove his brackets from the inside of his lip was not something that I wanted to witness–neither the visual nor the auditory. I did ask her if we should consult with an oral surgeon but she wanted to first see what she could do. Good enough. All of our previous medical experiences in this beloved adopted country of ours have taught me to take a deep breath and have faith that all will turn out okay.

Out to the hallway I went, pacing back and forth, trying to keep my composure when all I was really feeling was an overwhelm of worry and trying to brace myself for the screams that I was sure would be echoing throughout the hospital walls.

Much to my surprise (and great relief!), just a few minutes later my daughter Mairead came walking down the hallway to tell me “it was all over”…that the Doctor had successfully removed Liam’s braces from his lip and that we were ready to leave! Music to my ears and nerves for sure! There was some anesthetic spray and tissue manipulation in there but I will spare us all the details.

We all have our stateside ER stories and I am not without mine. Not once when we lived in the States, did an ER visit result in anything less than an 8 to 12 hour wait and at least a couple thousand dollar bill (minimum!), with insurance. The wait and the price did not translate to a higher level of care.

You can see in the bill below, how all of the charges from this recent Puerto Vallarta ER visit break down.

The emergency room portion was 534.48 pesos, 16% tax was 85.52 pesos, equalling a total of 620.00 pesos for the ER portion (approximately 32 dollars). The pharmacy bill which included three different medications—one antibiotic, one pain med and one oral spray—came to 320.92 pesos (approximately 16 dollars).  

The grand total for an ER visit that included effective, individualized, patient-centered care and three different medications was 940.92 pesos translating to approximately 49 U.S. dollars at today’s exchange rate of 19.19 pesos to the dollar.

One of the top questions I receive from my clients in the relocation consulting work I do is how we pay for medical care. It is easy to see in this example how paying cash for many situations is absolutely feasible. 

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Less than 50 dollars for an ER Visit!

Did this incident carry with it the potentiality for loss of life or limb and the resulting potential costs? No, thank God. But it was an emergency at 11:30 at night.

Four years into this immigrated lives, we continue to be absolutely grateful for the ease, access and affordability of medical care here.

Do you have any similar experiences where you walked away amazed by the affordability and convenience of medical care in Mexico?

I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Saludos,

Katie 

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Tiara November 2, 2016, 1:29 am

    After thousands of dollars spent in San Diego trying to have an infected tooth removed, I eventually made my way across the border. In Mexico, I was given antibiotics and told to return in 3 days. I did. And the wonderful dentist was able to extract the tooth with no pain. Ever since this experience, I have been afraid to seek dental care in the U.S. For less than $50 (including the prescription) I was pain free! Nothing beats pain free!

    • Katie O'Grady November 9, 2016, 6:13 pm

      Hi Tiara,
      So happy to know that you ultimately had a positive (and cost-effective!) outcome to your less than ideal dental challenges.
      I am over and over again so pleasantly surprised by the level of care my family receives here in this beautiful country.
      Best,
      Katie 🙂

  • Pat Huber November 2, 2016, 9:39 am

    Hey! Now three years ago, my hip pain was getting worse. An X-ray revealed holes in the hip bone, and my newly found orthopedic surgeon said I needed surgery right away….or I would end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I told him I needed time to move money, fly my daughter down, etc. He said a big “NO”and scheduled my surgery in Guad for five days away. His driver picked my hubby and I up, swung by the airport for my daughter’s incoming flight, drove us to the hospital: driver came in and acted as a translator….getting us checked in. Operation the next day was complicated, but successful (had to sit in a recliner for three months and not move while the holes healed around the hip replacement). Never saw a bill. We just agreed on an amount that was about a fourth of what that operation would cost in the States. He charged everything on HIS credit card. He told me to make payments monthly. I decided the amount. No charge for follow up visits. And, after 4 months….he decided I should be proactive on the other hip so it did not degenerate. Repeat performance. Charged everything. His no nonsense, proactive, yet compassionate approach is the reason I am out and about today….acting as Maureen’s photography manger, shaking by booty at local clubs, and rescuing stray cats! I thank God for Mexico medical care daily! Glad your son is okay! Take care.

    • Katie O'Grady November 9, 2016, 6:31 pm

      Now this is truly a remarkable story Pat and warms my heart so! Just Wow!
      I love this amazing country and her people!
      Thank you for sharing.
      I wish you lots and lots of health!
      xx
      Katie

  • Pamela Howard November 2, 2016, 10:01 am

    Several years ago, while visiting on a sailboat moored at El-Cid Marina Mazatlan, I became very ill. The marina physician diagnosed me with pneumonia. He sent for antibiotics so I would not have to venture out and they were delivered to me. I think the total cost then was around $50. (exchange was then 10:1) I did not have money with me that day and he said I could pay him when I felt better. Another time while living at Los Chivos I saw the physician at one of the pharmacy’s in Mazatlan. 25 pesos for the visit. In 2012,

    I came down to Mazatlan for an upper endoscopy because the procedure was $3000 at home and $300 in Mazatlan. Charges by the specialist were about $50. I have many more stories like this including dental care. Simply amazing! I would not hesitate to visit Mexico, even in poor health.

    • Katie O'Grady November 9, 2016, 6:47 pm

      Wow Pamela!
      Thank you so much for sharing.
      I absolutely love to hear of other’s medical success stories in Mexico!
      Best Regards,
      Katie 🙂

  • Cynthia N. November 2, 2016, 11:50 am

    We ended up taking a friend who had hurt her foot to the same emergency room in PV on Oct. 26 in the evening. The bill was a little more since it involved taking x-rays but they were so nice and efficient. Can’t say enough good things about Hospital San Javier.

    • Katie O'Grady November 20, 2016, 5:02 pm

      Hi Cynthia,

      A friend of mine, who is a nurse, recently needed to take her young son to San Javier for a broken clavicle and she was so impressed with the compassionate, high-level care they received.

      They are for sure our “go to hospital” for unforeseen needs and where I would recommend others to go as well.

      Best,

      Katie

  • soulpatch November 2, 2016, 5:52 pm

    I had the misfortune of slicing my big toe open one night when we lived in San Pancho.
    It was a very large cut and despite all attempts to convince myself a bandaid would do it I ended up at the Emergency Room in San Pancho quite late at night.
    13 very large stitches and an hour later I walked out of the hospital nicely sewn up and $200MXN lighter.
    Great service, no wait time to speak of and the staff was attentive and personable.

    • Katie O'Grady November 20, 2016, 5:39 pm

      Hi Soulpatch!

      A misfortune indeed, ouch!

      The only good part of that night was the 200 peso bill…and the compassionate care you received!

      Un abrazo,

      Tu esposa 🙂

  • Anthony November 2, 2016, 6:43 pm

    My 13 month old son was in PV with his mom. 103 degree temperature. She took him to a clinic at 7 pm. Dr. Visit, shot, exam and meds ($12.00 us dollars. Total time 20 minutes.

    • Katie O'Grady November 20, 2016, 5:42 pm

      Hi Anthony,

      Truly amazing, no?

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and so happy to know your boy was okay.

      Cheers,

      Katie 🙂

  • Miguel2 November 3, 2016, 8:01 am

    Hi Katie – walk-in 24/7 ER is terrific in places such as Hospital San Javier, in larger communities all around the Mexico. But communities without places open 24/7 are less likely to produce the same results as quickly, with a sign on the door and a telephone number to call. For major surgery, doctor specialists and big city hospitals here in Guadalajara accept my BCBS international insurance card. The bill for a recent two-night hospital stay at Puerta de Hierro, including a spacious private suite with a nice sleep sofa for me, was a total of just under $5,000 USD and our out of pocket was only $200 USD. And the surgeon did not charge for two follow-up office visits. Viva Mexico!

    • Katie O'Grady November 20, 2016, 9:04 pm

      Hi Miguel2,

      Yes indeed, the type and level of care is very different depending on location, just like north of the border.

      Happy to hear that you too have received such excellent and affordable care in Guadalajara.

      Best,
      Katie

  • Jan vanderburg November 3, 2016, 8:08 am

    I enjoy reading about your Mexico life and we often think of making the move. Please tell me about the Relocation Consulting work that you do.

    • Katie O'Grady November 4, 2016, 12:16 pm

      Thank you Jan!
      I assist individuals and families that are looking to travel and/or move to Mexico by providing feet-on-the ground, bilingual information relative to health care, housing, immigration, educational options, day trips and the ins and outs of life in Mexico that you might not find in chat groups or guide books.
      I encourage you to take a look at some of the testimonials here on my blog and the reviews on my Los O’Gradys in Mexico Facebook Page to get an idea, from the client’s perspectives themselves, as to how I am able to be a great resource to those looking to plan their own Mexico Adventure!
      If you would like to be in private communications with me regarding any current or future travel and/or relocation needs, please email me at [email protected]
      Cheers,
      Katie

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