Friday, February 27, 2009

Guanajuato – Medical Care

I am still fighting Bruce Bla'Clot. The most excitement that fills my days is watching television and taking my daily medically prescribed walk to the end of the street and back.

So, to break the insufferable boredom, I thought I would answer a reader's topic request – Guanajuato's medical care.

I attended college in Lawrence, Kansas, a small town of about 45,000 people. Students of the University of Kansas made up about half of the population. There was a standard joke that no one would go to the quack-shack, the affectionate name for the student medical center, or to Lawrence's hospital for anything more serious than a sinus infection or a cut that needed suturing.

Unless you wanted a slow and torturous death, it was "understood" that you would try to get to St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri – even if you had to crawl all the way.

The same advice is also true for Guanajuato.

The medical care in this town of about 120,000 is adequate for non-critical medical issues.

The doctors range from poor to great. There seems to be a large array of specialties represented in Guanajuato. Guanajuatenses (Mexicans living in Guanajuato) tend to have their favorite doctors, if they go at all. Some Guanajuatenses rely on brujas (witches) or curanderos (healers) for their medical needs.

General rule of thumb: If you have bronchitis or need a cut sewn up – and all minor illnesses in between – go to a Guanajuato doctor or clinic. If you need bladder surgery or a triple bypass, head for:

1) León – 1 hour from Guanajuato
2) Guadalajara – 5 hours from Guanajuato
3) Mexico City – 4 hours from Guanajuato

Guanajuato Hospitals

The local hospitals rate among Guanajuatenses as, "I would never go to that hospital" to "I would only use this hospital." Your opinion may vary, too, after you have checked out what is available here.

I had to avail myself of one of Guanajuato's private hospitals just a couple of months after moving to the city. I contracted a somewhat critical bacterial infection after eating tainted pizza at a now-closed pizza-by-the-slice restaurant. I think it was the putrid salchicha (hot dog) that tried to do me in.

Tip: Avoid pizza-by-the-slice unless you can get a piece right out of the oven.

I was put into a private room with a bed right out of the 1960's. It had to be cranked up and down by hand instead of with the touch of a button as with modern hospital beds. I was impressed because the room and its private bathroom were cleaned and sterilized twice a day. When the nurses did their rounds to check vital signs, I got not one nurse, but three. My doctor checked on me in person three times a day. The food was fantastic.

A 24-hour stay, which included visits by my doctor, medications, tests, and the rest of typical hospital trappings, came to $600 USD. And, this was a private hospital.

Learn Spanish

Most gringos in Guanajuato manage to ferret out the few English-speaking doctors in town. Guanajuato, though the capital of the state of Guanajuato, is not a major Mexican city nor is it a Gringolandia. You will not find that English is spoken widely here. The few doctors who do speak English seem to be here by happenstance, not by design.

In the town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state's Gringolandia, English is so widely spoken that a monolingual gringo can get along quite well in the medical community (and in the community in general). The larger the Gringolandia the larger the percentage of English speakers – including doctors – you will find living in the city.

When touring or expatriating in Guanajuato, especially in the state capital, what should always be in the forefront of your mind is, "How will I communicate my medical history to medical personnel who only speak Spanish when seconds count?"

With the recent increase in Gringo tourists and expats in the city of Guanajuato, I've wondered if the medical community here has addressed or will address the language problem.

Just imagine being transported by ambulance to a Guanajuato hospital with a potential life-threatening illness or injury. You only speak English and the medical personnel only speak Spanish. You could be on that stretcher dying and unable to tell anyone your symptoms or medical history.

Sure, the staff might try to find a bilingual doctor or at least someone who can translate for you. But, when seconds count, you may not have time to wait until a bilingual person can be found.

You might take some medication or have a certain allergy or have some medical condition. If you can't communicate to the emergency room staff, you might be given medicine in the course of your treatment that could have deadly consequences.

Learning Spanish could not only save your life but could also help you find a competent doctor. You may not like the particular English-speaking doctor all the gringos use. Or, that doctor may be unavailable or out of town when you need medical care.

Ask your Mexican neighbors for hospital and doctor recommendations.


A Walk Through Mexico's Crown Jewel: A Guanajuato Travelogue

Learning Spanish Painlessly and Cheaply!

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