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Health & Safety

Lakeside Medical Care

By Karen Blue


One of the first questions asked by most Americans and Canadians considering life in the Lake Chapala area is, "How good are the doctors and hospitals?"


Medical Facilities

At the Lakeside, we have five 24-hour clinics and the Red Cross, all prepared to handle most medical emergencies. Most clinics have resident physicians as well as visiting specialists from Guadalajara who hold regular office hours:

Clinica Ajijic: Accepts U.S. insurance policies.
Phone: 766-0500; located on the Carreterra #33 in Ajijic

Mascaras Clinic: Provides ambulance service. Accepts U.S. insurance policies.
Phone: 765-4805; located in Riberas del Pilar between Ajijic and Chapala

San Andres Clinic: Accepts U.S. Insurance policies.
Phone: 766-0812; located at Paseo Del Lago in upper La Floresta, Ajijic

Sanitario Santa Teresita:
Phone: 763-0008; located at Miguel Arana 253, in Jocotopec

Clinica Maria Auxiliadora:
Phone: 013-763-1088; located on Morelos Ote. in Jocotepec

Red Cross:
Phone: 765-2308; located on Avenida Gonzalez Gallo in Chapala

The first three clinics own their own ambulances. The Red Cross has three well-equipped mobile units, and is the only facility allowed by Mexican law to attend victims of accidents. The Red Cross ambulances have been specially equipped for cardiac response from money raised largely by the local foreign community.

The local clinics are prepared to handle most emergencies and to stabilize more urgent cases until they can be moved to a Guadalajara hospital, one hour away. Hospitals in Guadalajara rival the best north of the border. They are clean and boast up-to-date equipment. However, the hospitals expect patients to be accompanied by a friend, relative or hired attendant/translator to provide personal care and to assist with baths and meals. Generally, there's an extra bed available in the room for this aide.

I've spoken with friends who've had strokes, heart attacks, hip replacements and even appendicitis treated in Mexican facilities. The general consensus is that the care is loving and of exceptional quality. To Mexicans, people aren't just an insurance claim form; they are patients and are treated very well. An older friend of mine returning from her second hip replacement in two years received a kiss on the cheek from the ambulance attendant who recognized her from the previous year.

Medical Care, Chiropractic and Alternative Care
In addition to the many physicians practicing at the Lakeside, specialists from Guadalajara visit the local clinics weekly on specified days and hours. We are lucky to have several naturopathic, chiropractic and homeopathic doctors as well as acupuncturists, practitioners of alternative medicine, and physical therapists.

Just like any town or city back home, there are as many opinions as people giving them regarding which hospital, doctor or dentist is the best…or the worst. People are regaled with all sorts of stories at cocktail parties: from the successes of open heart surgery to routine hip and knee replacements to ambulances that have a flat tire on the way to the hospital. As is true everywhere, you need to do your own research. Talk to friends and neighbors. Get recommendations, then speak with the doctors and determine who the best caregivers are for your particular needs before you need them.

Pharmacies
Purchasing medications is very different in Mexico than in the United States or Canada. Here, all medications except controlled substances and narcotics can be purchased without a prescription. Patients are expected to pursue follow-up care with their physician and to avoid self-prescribing medications.

Some drugs are much cheaper here, others more expensive. It depends on how long a drug has been in production, if the drug is imported or produced in Mexico, and whether or not it is available in generic form.

Many of the local pharmacies employ English-speaking staff and have a cross-reference directory of English and Spanish names for the medications. Because Mexican law requires that a medical doctor own all pharmacies, there will often be a doctor in the pharmacy, ready to check your blood pressure, give you a shot, write a prescription when needed, or consult with you about your symptoms.

Nursing Homes and Live-In Care
I wouldn't hesitate, if it became necessary, to place a loved one in the nursing homes here. They are administered and staffed by compassionate people who maintain a bright and clean environment. And, of course, they're much less expensive than anything you could find north of the border. Residents have the opportunity to spend time outside year round, and are treated as respected members of the family.

Full-time live-in care is available at a very reasonable cost, and without the legal restrictions you might find back home. These helpers can range from registered nurses to loving older Mexican women who have spent their lives caring for family members. A few foreign residents also provide full or part-time live-in services to supplement their incomes.

Paid subscribers may submit specific questions on drugs or medical care to: info@mexico-insights.com. Generally, you can expect a 48-hour response.

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