Access to affordable healthcare is often cited by expatriates in regard to their decision to live in Mexico. It was one of mine reasons as well, though I think with a different bent that most. I very seldom ever go to doctor, and I don’t agree with the obsession with prevention, other than that which is obvious good sense, exercise, decent diet, low stress lifestyle(yes I consider our life low stress).
What I prefer about Mexico’s health care system is that it is easier to avoid. The culture is not built on the necessity of having insurance, mammograms and taking preventive medicines–yet. And if one did have a serious health problem, a broken leg say, it is far less likely to be financially ruinous, though it will likely leave you with a ghastly scar, as thick as athumb and bumpy with scar tissue. I am pretty sure Mexicans surgeons use baling twine for suturing from the look of every operation result I have seen.
Recently, I had reason to go see the medico in La Tigra’s free clinic. Few residents of La Tigra use the free service, it is considered tacky, a way of showing that you don’t have enough money to pay or the good sense to go to a ‘real’ doctor. The doctors at our clinic are doing their residency; they come for one year and then receive their full licensing.
Our doctor’s most frequent patients are mothers who must maintain health standards(weigh ins, inoculations) for their children in order to receive their oportunidades(welfare), Dona’s with aches and pains who receive a lot more care and concern from the doctor that they have likely ever enjoyed from their husband, and occasionally the gringa( that’s me).
As with most aspects of life in La Tigra, the arrival of a new doctor is an anticipated and gossip steeped event as the town determines if we’ve gotten a ‘good’ doctor or a ‘bad’ doctor this time. These value judgments mean different things to different people, is the doctor a marriage prospect is, for example, is important to some. And sometimes we have a doctor that is so out there that everyone agrees he’s bad. Two years ago we had a doctor who had to be summoned from the poker table out of cloud of his own cigarette smoke if his services were needed. We also have a child born to a Dona he befriend that looks remarkably like the medico, and nothing at all like her other children or their father.
For me a good medico is one that doesn’t make me borrow my Sister-in –laws numero seguro popular(social security number) to receive treatment, or care whether I have remembered my cartilla, a government issued booklet for tracking your treatments. There has only been one medico that cared about such things. My last visit was a high point in my participation in the Mexican medical system.
I had self-diagnosed myself with symptoms of peri- menopause, and after several year of discomfort decided I wanted to use low dosage birth control pills as hormone replacement therapy. So, self-diagnosed and prescribed I headed to the clinic on horseback, tied Monty to the hitching post having rehearsed my speech en Española during the ride, in preparation for the doctor who I had not yet met. All I had heard about him was that he didn’t stay overnight as most of the doctors do; he hadn’t brought a nasty nurse like the last one did, and he didn’t hand out drugs like piñata goodies, as is often the case.
I introduced myself, explained that my Spanish wasn’t that great, and gave him an assessment of my health and my preference for treatment. He replied, “Quieras, un caja or dos?” (Would you like one or two months, worth?) He did not respond, “You will have to have a pap smear for me to prescribe birth control pills, or do you smoke?” These would have of course been reasonable questions to ask. But I was thrilled with his laissez faire attitude. My unscheduled, no wait, appointment took less than five minutes. When I lived in Chicago, it took me two months to get in to see my ghetto doctor (he was the only within in my region that was accepting patients that was part of my HMO) at least three hours with the bus ride and waiting room vigil, and most of my visits there were spent fending off his recommendations for preventative drugs.
This recent encounter with the medico is my favorite, second only perhaps to the time neighbor women attended to my shots in the rump for strep throat because the doctor had gone home for the weekend, and she was experienced at injections for livestock making her the first choice for maintaining human injection schedules when the doctor was away. I paid for her services with a roasted chicken. That is my idea of an effective health care system.
I realize most people think that managing ones health in this manor is insane, ignorant or both, but you may be happy to hear that most of my symptoms disappeared in the first week after receiving Dr. Abby’s treatment.
For my purposes, Mexico’s medical system is indeed, Very Simple, Very Easy, and Very Good.
P.S. In addition, for those of you who were concerned my hands were chafing from hand washing, our electricity inexplicable returned in full force and all of our harvest is now ground and put safely away for the season!