Oaxaca Healthcare: Free for the People

From personal experience I can tell you that tapping into the public health care system is low cost and easy if you are living or visiting in Oaxaca. This morning I presented myself at the Centro de Salud in Teotitlan del Valle with symptoms that I had pretty much determined via internet research were the cause of shingles.  I am not going to share photos with you!  And, this is not what I had intended to write about today, but here goes!

The clinic is a clean and modern building staffed with nurses and medical specialists, including gynecologists, pediatricians, psychologists, dentists, and social workers.

I took a seat along with about 15 people — men, women, children, babies — to wait our turn.  After the nurse in charge of intake took my name and age, she weighed me and measured my height.   The total wait before I saw the doctor was 40 minutes, about the same amount of time I can wait for an appointment in the U.S. that I have made months in advance.

After the diagnosis was confirmed, the doctor prescribed the necessary anti-viral and pain medications, which the on-site pharmacy dispensed immediately.  When I asked, the doctor said what I had was familiar here, too.  The medicine and office visit is free for local people.  For people who don’t live in the pueblo, the suggested donation is 20 pesos (that’s less than $2 USD).   I put 100 pesos (that’s about $8 USD) in the donation box.

My ailment will be treated over the course of five or six days.  I feel so much better now that I have pastillas (pills) in my system.  The doctor asked that I follow-up with him in six days to make sure I’m healing well.

Meanwhile, I suggest, if you are older than age 50 and  haven’t done so,  to get a shingles vaccination.

P.S. This summer physician assistant and nursing students from Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC, will do an externship here, learning how the Mexican healthcare system works. I organize this through the program leaders at the university, helping the students secure lodging and getting approvals for them to work in the clinic.  Today gave me a chance to see how the system works from the inside!  It’s very good.


14 responses to “Oaxaca Healthcare: Free for the People

  1. Norma,
    So hope you feel better soon. Thank you for sharing your painful experience and good advice. To reinforce your message about the quality of medical care in Oaxaca, we had an amazing experience last February when Richard needed stitches after hitting his head on the corner of an open window.
    We could not have had better care anywhere from the physicians or the other hospital caregivers.

  2. Another friend of mine got the shingles and she said that nothing she has ever had was as painful. This is from someone who had a hip replacement and was doing major walks within a month!! I’m looking into getting one.
    Thanks for another interesting blog.

    • Robin, go get one immediately. It’s miserable. It feels like a million pin pricks are on my midriff. I’m trying to persevere and not let it interfere, but so far, can’t get up and away from my computer! See you in December! Mil gracias y abrazos fuerte, Norma

  3. And what a great project to have arranged for the externship in Teotitlan from NC. Good for you. The Mexican health care system is little understood and much maligned in the U.S.
    Bruno got very sick in Oaxaca and he saw la doctora in a clinica around the corner from Las Golandrinas hotel. it was inexpensive and good care, and again, little waiting with no appointment.

    • Hi, Pat, yes, it’s important to remind people that the U.S. healthcare system is not the ideal. Medications and doctor visits are costly, even with the increased used of physician assistants and nurse practitioners (thank goodness for them). We have big pharma to thank for a lot of this as well as the hubris of folks who think that developing countries have everything to learn from us. We have a good deal to learn from them!

  4. hi Norma,
    get well very soon. so sorry to hear you have shingles. I did get the vaccine thank goodness.

  5. Norma, so sorry to hear that you’ve gotten the shingles! Be well! –XO

  6. ouch -sorry to hear this but sounds like you are very brave and not suffering too much. i hope it passes quickly!
    see you in january!

  7. THANKS for reminding me Norma. Get a shingles vaccination!!
    I’ve been putting it off.

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