My Trip to the Emergency Room in Mexico

Readers of our blog often ask us to write more articles about the healthcare system in Mexico, and although I didn’t originally have any plans of doing that this week, a slippery bathtub at a local resort changed all that.

The Injury

Linda and I were staying at a local all-inclusive resort. As many of you already know, I tend to wake up hours before Linda does and this day was no exception. I was wide awake by 5:30 AM.

I decided to take a shower and then head down to enjoy some coffee and take a few pics of the sunrise. Unfortunately, I never made it past the shower phase because I slipped and fell. My head hit the edge of the tub, leaving me with a one-inch laceration above my right eye.

I knew I needed stitches, so I woke Linda up and our unexpected medical adventure began.

For those of you who don’t much about the healthcare options in Mexico, there are basically two systems: public and private.

For the last four years, Linda and I have used the private system because the facilities are normally much nicer and better equipped; there are shorter wait times; and the patient care is typically exceptional.

The best part is that the price tag for that level of care and service is much lower than it would be in the United States — at least for scheduled treatments and procedures. When it comes to emergencies, those prices can increase dramatically.

It’s not uncommon to see news stories about private hospitals and clinics charging exorbitant fees for emergency care, especially in tourist areas. An emergency room visit could easily end up costing you a couple of thousand dollars.

That’s why you should always purchase travel insurance before coming down. In case you missed it, I said always.

Anyway, back to my story…

We went to Hospiten, a private hospital in Playa del Carmen located about 15 minutes north of the resort.

I had been there a few times before for routine check-ups and medical treatments. The care has always been exceptional and the prices very reasonable — but, this was my first time being there for an after-hours emergency.

The first thing we did when we walked up to the admissions desk is ask how much the visit would cost. I have insurance, but it has a $2,500 USD yearly deductible and I hadn’t spent anywhere near that amount.

The woman checking me in said she couldn’t quote us a price until the doctor examined me and determined the extent of my injuries.

She said that I was already listed in the computer as a local resident from my previous visits, and that meant I would receive a substantial discount.

We checked-in and we were seen by a doctor within 10 minutes. After he examined me, he said that I needed some stitches, but no additional scans or testing appeared to be necessary.

He then said, “I was told that you requested a quote for treatment. Please wait a moment and someone will be in with that.”

The doctor left the room and within five minutes, a different woman from the admissions desk came in. She quoted me a price in pesos that was the equivalent of about $162 USD. I was pretty pleased with that and agreed to the treatment.

A second doctor came to the room, cleaned my wound and stitched me up. He gave me a couple of prescriptions, which I filled at a local pharmacy for about $6.40 USD.

We were back at the resort within two hours from the time we left. Not bad.

Let’s Wrap This Up

This story is just another example of the financial advantages of being considered a local resident in this part of Mexico. As a tourist, you should expect to pay more if you have a slip-and-fall while on vacation.

That’s why it’s important to always purchase the travel insurance. Yep, that’s the third time I’ve said that now.

Well, that’s it for today. Hasta Luego.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

26 Comments on "My Trip to the Emergency Room in Mexico"

  1. Thanks for this info!! We go to the Riviera Maya every year for the last 20 years and hope to move there one day. In the meantime how do we go about purchasing travelers insurance before going this summer?? Thanks for the heads up!! Following you for a long time love your Spanish lessons as well. Keep it up!

  2. Ethel Merts aka Fran Clark | May 3, 2019 at 10:36 am |

    I know when I was born, the entire hospital bill, delivery with four (4) days in the hospital was $75.00. That was in Kentucky. When we moved to Florida, I remember the doctor my dad went to in Lakeland, actually made home visits to check on him and my sister when they were sick…no extra charge. He stopped each morning while on his way to his office. My how things have changed!!

    • You’re right. You won’t see that sort of thing back in the States anymore.

  3. Christina K | May 3, 2019 at 10:53 am |

    Dear Paul, I also had a slip and fall at a resort but they took care of the bill. Why didn’t they pay for your emergency room visit?

    • They sometimes do, they sometimes don’t. In our case, they did not but they gave us a free day pass.

      You were extremely lucky. We know dozens of people who slipped and fell at resorts and none of the bills were paid for by the resort.

    • I hope you weren’t hurt too bad. 🙁

  4. Cherry Scott | May 3, 2019 at 10:54 am |

    Couldn’t agree more about the high quality of medical care, very little wait time for an appointment and the reasonable costs. Cardiologist including ECG and thorough consultation at Amerimed 1400 pesos. Dermatologist for possible skin cancer which turned out to be benign including high tech scan, minor treatment and prescription at Dermacaribe 1500 pesos. Great doctors, courteous, knowledgeable and modern technology – fantastic!

  5. I am glad to hear you are OK and had an real life experience to blog about. I have had 2 ER episodes since living in Mexico. I never thought to ask about price but both times I was treated well, and I used the opportunities to evaluate the system since I am a nurse, the truly worst kind of patient. The price was so reasonable, once $35. and the other $250. At the time I had international insurance but I never claimed because I didn’t even meet the deductible. I also have the experience of just walking into the public clinic in my small town for a skin problem. Examined, given medicine and no fee. I paid them 150 pesos because i could but they were reluctant to even take that. Got to love Mexico. FYI. Before I left the US, I had just started on Medicare, now I am giving away my age. A pneumonia vaccine with well exam was almost $600usd. Now that is a fact!

  6. I love your articles! Even though we live in Baja Norte, just north of Ensenada, what you write about is relevant to us also. We belong to the local Cruz Rojo, $20/yr membership. In an emergency dial 911 and ambulance/EMTs are on their way. Ambulance transportation to hospitals from Ensenada to Tijuana is free to members. They suggest residents “sign-up” with a hospital in advance to enable quick sign-in and at our hospital, the ability to pay by credit card. If you have seen a doctor at the facility previously it also results in faster service. An idea of cost in Hospital Valmar, a visit for ankle injury, $50 to doctor, $50 for a set of x-Rays. Immediate diagnosis and limping out with care instructions. If visiting an area, get a receipt and submit to your U.S. insurance. They may not reimburse full amount, but will often apply towards your deductible. And like you said ALWAYS have international medical coverage when traveling. Ever needed a medical transport back to a U.S. hospital? We did. Insurance was so nice~ Keep those articles coming, please.

  7. Christine Fennell | May 3, 2019 at 11:25 am |

    Very important question- Was Linda able to go back to bed?
    Thanks for the video and I am glad you’re on the mend!!

  8. Ended up in Progresso hospital. Also had insurance through RBC. Night in hospital, Doctors(3) and prescriptions were all looked after and paid before I left the next morning. Excellent!!

  9. Wonderful info! Glad you are ok!

  10. Tim Bondett | May 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm |

    I also had fantastic, fast service last year in Puerto Vallarta. Went to emergency of private hospital ( I always have travel insurance). Within 2 hours I was seen by emergency doctor, tests/x-rays done and admitted to a private room. Antibiotic IV running with antibiotics and Internal Medicine Dr at end of my bed. ( Bacterial pneumonia) Released 4 days later. Best follow-up ever. I doubt I would have had such quick, attentive treatment back in Canada. My worries about hospitals in Mexico are over!!!!

  11. Steve Granger | May 3, 2019 at 1:15 pm |

    Hi Paul. Glad you weren’t hurt too bad! Question for you – how were the English skills of the staff at the hospital? Just curious how much Spanish you needed to make sense of things there. While I am working on learning Spanish, I’m far from the point that I would understand things there – just curious if you think that would be an issue?

    • Qroo Paul | May 3, 2019 at 1:27 pm |

      I’m not sure because we spoke Spanish at the hospital. However, our neighbors tell us that most of the doctors at Hospiten and similar facilities, do speak English well.

  12. Patti Lyoch | May 3, 2019 at 7:25 pm |

    Uncanny, but you could substitute me for you in this experience. My hospital visit was before I learned my lesson – you must drink water even if you don’t care for water or dehydrate and get sick. Even the cost of the ER and the meds are about the same. All the docs spoke English and I have high praises for Hospiten. I had excellent care but I did have to spend the afternoon replenishing fluids. Wondering which resort you visited this time…we just missed you when you were at Seaside.

  13. In tulum $32 for six stitches Cruz roja January 2019 thanks dr Marie

  14. John Ramm | May 3, 2019 at 8:59 pm |

    The first things to know about Mexico (after getting travelers or health insurance) is that everything is hard, sharp-edged, slippery when wet, heavy, uneven, trippy for walking, and mostly without handrails or grab-bars. Gravity seems to be extra-strong down here, so take your time and pick up your feet! WAY UP!
    i Cuidado!

  15. $162 USD WOW am I the only one that thought that was expensive for stitches?

  16. I do not have any health care experience in your area. However in Jalisco I am registered with Seguro Popular. I have had stitches in my hand and also I have been treated for a cardiac event, both at no charge. With AMLO the healthcare laws are changing and I do not know how these changes will apply to foreigners, hopefully we will retain our coverage and benefits.

    My wife and I are permanente visa holders and my son has a temporal visa. He has also received treatment at Seguro Popular with all costs absorbed by the Mexican government except for medication.

    Seguro Popular and IMSS are in the process of merging. Vamos a ver.

  17. Gail Valdez | May 4, 2019 at 2:40 pm |

    Did I see you in the Tampa airport April 26 about 10:30am?

  18. Mike preiss | May 4, 2019 at 3:36 pm |

    i got a stomach sickness in Cancun in 2016 and after seeing the hotel doctor they sent me to a local ER and as a tourist they wanted 1000$ just to see me and then the hotel doctor overcharged me 50$ from his quote. It’s definitly different if your a tourist compared to a resident.

    • Qroo Paul | May 4, 2019 at 6:45 pm |

      Yes, it is very different. In can be helpful to go to a local public hospital. They have lower rates than that.

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