Welcome to Mexico!

By Victoria Schmidt

Appointment Please


No matter where you live, being sick is a hassle. But I’ve determined that being sick in Mexico is much less stressful than being sick in the United States.

This week my husband is in the USA having medical tests run, and I am reminded about how discourteous and, well, clinical the system is there. First I make an appointment; after playing round robin with their automated telephone system, I finally get to the correct extension to make an appointment. They want to know all the pertinent information; name, address, date of birth, purpose of appointment, insurance information (and name of first-born—just in case insurance won’t cover your expenses). Of course, you can’t ask any questions, well, you can, but you have to talk to the doctor’s assistant, who is at yet another extension and who is “busy or away from her desk, please leave a message.”

Oh, and if you want to see a specialist, make sure you coordinate with the Referral Coordinator first. Once having made an appointment for a medical test, you can expect a call from a “pre-registration specialist”. The one who called our house didn’t want to talk with me because of privacy laws. We finally establish that she needs his name, date of birth, insurance information. What’s so private about that? Then she says to bring a list of his medications and a photo ID. A photo ID? Someone else might show up for his consultation, or for his colonoscopy?

So we’ve made the appointment, discussed the information with the referral coordinator, pre-registered, and left a message for the doctor’s assistant. She calls us back to tell us to bring medical records from Mexico. (Or the doctor can’t see us.) How funny is that? Last time I checked, the USA doctor didn’t speak any Spanish. Yes those records will be so informative!

Once at the doctor’s office, we wait in line to register (even if you pre-registered on the phone) then show that picture ID and fill out still more paper work while we wait to see the doctor. If you are lucky within an hour of your scheduled appointment, a nurse comes to get you. (We weren’t so lucky.) Then a nurse takes us into a little room, takes my husband’s vitals, reviews his medications, and writes down why he is there. She leaves the room telling my husband to disrobe and put on a “gown”. Which is in truth, no “gown” at all, just a flimsy paper shift that leaves my husband shivering away waiting on the exam table as we wait another ½ hour to 45 minutes for the doctor to make an appearance.

Eventually the doctor walks through the door, looks at the both of us, glances at the chart and says “Good afternoon, Mr. Schmidt” (after reading his name off the chart). He then asks “So what brings you here today?” The visit lasts all of three minutes, two prescriptions are scribbled and he exits. Wow. I, for one, am under-whelmed.

After leaving the doctor’s office we go to the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions and they say they can fill them, but one of the drugs isn’t on the formulary (you know that ever-dwindling list of drugs the insurance company will pay for) and oops—this other prescription requires pre-authorization! So a form has to be faxed to the doctor who just saw you to authorize the prescription he just, ah, authorized?

Contrast this with Mexico where we call the doctor’s office and speak to the nice young lady who answers the phone on the first ring and asks us what time we want to come in today. We come in, and have vitals taken, and within moments we are sitting with the actual doctor (who knows our names and doesn’t have to read them off the chart). He does a thorough examination and gives us the name of the medicines to pick up at the pharmacy, no prescription needed. We pop in, pick up the meds and are out walking hand-in-hand along the malecon in no time at all.

With which system do you think you’d rather work?

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