The old hospital


HEADING BACK to the Honda this afternoon, I passed this place, Hospital San Juan as it’s usually known, but I see here that it’s dubbed the Hospital General Dr. Gabriel Garcia A.C.

Open 24 hours.

I’ll stick with Hospital San Juan. It’s connected somehow — physically at least — to the Templo de San Juan de Dios, and it’s where Jean Kinnison died about a decade ago of a heart attack. She and her husband Al lived just over a block away, so it was the logical place to take her that day when she was feeling very poorly, so poorly she died shortly after arriving at the Hospital San Juan.

It’s a very basic hospital. If you’ve got some major issue, better head elsewhere, but if you’re in a rush and nearby, just go there for starters. We’ve done that a couple of times, but not in many years. You can get a consultation at the emergency room for about two bucks. And these are real doctors who work part-time here while also practicing in more prestigious places.

Enlarge the photo and you get a clearer view of the offerings. Not just the emergency room, but dental care, blood transfusions, surgery, X-rays, whatnot. Just about anything. I took Steve Cotton there years back when he had some issue with a blood-pressure prescription.

The building in which sits the hospital and the connected church is about 500 years old, but they keep it tidy even if the beds look like something from the Spanish Civil War. No matter. I would recommend this place in a pinch. However, if you have time for a drive, and don’t mind paying more than two bucks, go down to the state capital where you’ll find this alternative.

If you’re being discharged from the Hospital San Juan, or if you’re visiting a patient, be aware that as you walk out the front door, you can turn right half a block where you’ll find incredible sugar donuts in a pastry shop. The sugar donuts are not available on weekends, just weekdays.

You’re not likely to find such treats near one of those fancy-pants medical centers.

Dios and doctors


I’M SITTING ON a hard pew in the main cathedral of the state capital. Instead of praying or even reading the Bible, I’m waiting and occasionally reading Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs on my Kindle. That fellow in the pew ahead of me is probably praying enough for the both of us.

God and doctors. That’s the theme for today. God because, well, look where I am, surrounded by religious trappings as only the Catholics can do it. I enjoy sitting here. Wish I had a cushion, however, for my skinny butt. Doctors, because my wife is visiting one right now.

Allow me to rub it in some more, to those of you who live outside Mexico, poor darlings, trapped by “free,” socialist, medical schemes in both Canada and, now, Barry’s America.

My child bride was unfortunate enough to have two medical crises at the same time, neither life-threatening but both physically unpleasant. It began on Monday, so we phoned Specialist No. 1 in the nearby state capital and easily made an appointment for the following day at 10 a.m.

Monday night, problem No. 2 erupted, so as we were driving to the state capital Tuesday morning, we phoned Specialist No. 2 and easily made an appointment for 11:30, 90 minutes later.

Can you do that where you live? Heck no.

While she was at the office of Specialist No. 1, I walked the four blocks to this cathedral. Yes, I’m not actually sitting there at this moment. Luckily, she finished in time for us to drive to Specialist No. 2, whose office is in the annex of the Star Médica hospital, a great Mexican chain.

Both issues were handily resolved, and we paid the reasonable charges in cash.

And that, mis amigos, is how health care should be handled.

Efficiently, intelligently, affordably.

Mexican medical matters

DOCTOR AND DENTIST within days of one another. Here’s how it goes in Mexico, amigos. Yet again.

I called my physician in the state capital and made an appointment for the next day. Yes, the next day, easily. That doctor is my main man, whom I call only if I suspect my problem could be serious or — at my advancing age — life-threatening. Otherwise, I have two good doctors here nearby on the mountaintop, and they serve me well for piddling things, routine stuff.

stethMy main man, in his late-40s, is a professor at the state medical school. He is also a surgeon, an internist, a gastroenterologist and has the most soothing bedside manner I’ve ever encountered. Mornings he teaches and practices at a hospital in the public sector. Then there’s the long Mexican lunch. At 5 p.m. he shows up at his private practice where he works until 7 or 8.

His wife, a gynecologist, uses these same facilities for her practice with womenfolk in the mornings. It’s in a modern hospital annex.

I arrive at 4:45, early, the first appointment of his afternoon. I step into the small elegant waiting room that has soft lighting, soothing music and a wonderful leather sofa and accompanying easy chair. There is artwork on the walls. The receptionist ushers me inside, and I describe the problem to the doctor while sitting in his similarly appointed office. He speaks English, but we’ve always conversed in Spanish.

There is no line of cubicles where patients sit, twiddling their thumbs, backsides open, and waiting as the doctor moves down the assembly line.

We step into a small, adjoining, high-tech examination room, and a likely diagnosis is announced. Nothing worrying.

We walk back into the doctor’s private office where I sit again in a big leather chair. There is artwork on the walls, his many diplomas, dark-wood bookshelves and soft lighting. He writes out a prescription and describes the problem, as he sees it. We shake hands, and I step into the waiting room again to pay the receptionist about $45 cash. I depart 25 minutes after I arrived.

A pharmacy charges me $23 for the meds.

* * * *

The dental appointment, also in the state capital about 40 minutes down the highway, was for the following day. I had made that appointment the previous week. I arrived a bit early again, a Gringo habit I cannot break, fifteen minutes before 1 p.m. There is no one ahead of me in the waiting room. Again, it is quiet and peaceful. And no assembly line anywhere.

The office is in what obviously used to be a home. It’s unmarked outside and in a residential neighborhood. Patients come by referral only. He’s not even in the Yellow Pages.

I had come for a routine cleaning and checkup. The cleaning is done by one of two dental hygienists, and they do better cleanings than I ever got above the Rio Bravo. A cleaning runs about $53, and I pay in cash. But on this day, before the cleaning, the dentist checks out my chompers. Sadly, there are problems that I had not noticed.

No cause for alarm. I am in Mexico and in good medical hands.

The doctor, an amiable, middle-aged guy who looks like a movie star if you women are in the dental market, takes a few X-rays for which he charges nothing additional. One tooth way at the rear is fractured, and needs a crown. Another X-ray shows that a niggling problem of years’ duration has finally grown to the point that it can be, well, pinpointed.

It is an inflammation deep at the tip of a root. Perhaps it can be solved with a root canal. Perhaps not. He does not know, and suggests that I get an endodontist’s opinion. He recommends the specialist, gives me his name, address nearby and phone number, and writes out instructions for the other doctor. If it cannot be resolved with a root canal, the tooth will be pulled and I’ll get an implant.

Currently, I have all my original teeth. I’ve never had one pulled. With luck, a root canal will solve the issue. I’ve had a number of root canals. Pieces of cake. I’ll know next Wednesday after seeing the endodontist. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

On leaving, I pay the $53 for the cleaning and another $290 in advance, with my debit card, the total for the crown, which ain’t bad. I have another appointment on the 19th for the crown installation. A mold was taken by the hygienist.

Everything has gone smoothly, rapidly and professionally, and I pay as I go. I have no medical insurance, nor do I need any. If I require an implant, I will pay for it. It’s all between me and the medics. Meddling government is not involved, nor any avaricious HBO.

This is how the Goddess intends it to be — and how it once was above the Rio Bravo, back in your Good Old Days.

* * * *

(Note: We have, of course, a public medical system in place for poor folks. It is cheap to free, subsidized by the government, but no one is forced into it in any way whatsoever.)