I have researched, for a series of articles on medical care, the cost and quality of that care in comparison to the United States. What I learned is that medical insurance, prescription drugs, surgeries and dental procedures are one third the cost of comparable services in the U.S. . The reasons are: the lower income of medical service consumers, government cost controls on medicine, the scarcity of malpractice litigation in Mexico and the average earnings of health care professionals: medical doctors earn an average of $1,000.00 a month and nurses $500.00 monthly.
The quality of care I have received from my physician, other specialists and dentists in Mexico have been outstanding. I would not trade my "house calling" physician and state of the art dentist for any professional north of the border. Medical training and practices in Mexico are of the highest standards if your physician or hospital is offering services in the private medical sector. The socialized medical care, at the clinic level, leaves much to be desired. However, for major surgeries, this system also offers world class specialists and care.
St. James Infirmary: A Medical Treasure by The Sea of Cortez
Doctor Lowell Somers (Duke) and his wife Caroline, a nurse practicioner, have realized a twelve year old dream: A hospital for their adopted home, San Felipe. Dedicated medical professionals, they ran a clinic for farmworkers in Cochella California before moving to San Felipe. Cesar Chavez, the great campesino leader, lauded the Somers as true friends of migrant farmworkers. The Somers hoped for a quiet and comfortable retirement, but those plans quickly evaporated.
Doctor and Mrs. Somers could not sit idly by when they realized the pressing need for medical technology and infrastructure in San Felipe. First, they donated needed medical equipment to the area´s doctors. The first X ray machine in town was donated by the Somers.
Most U.S. retirees in Mexico stay within their gringo ghettos, speaking only Engish and content to ¨do nothing¨ but relax. Duke and Caroline are not typical. They learned Spanish and assimilated into the local community. Their love for Mexico motivated them to study Mexican history and culture. Duke can sing an impressive list of songs from the Mexican revolution while accompanying himself on guitar.
Doctor Victor Abasola, a respected San Felipe physicion, whose practice has served the community since 1990, became personal physician and close friend to the Somers. Dr. Abasola is now chief of staff for St. James Infirmary.
It did not take long for the Somers to realize the great need for a hospital with full trauma care in San Felipe. Seriously injured or sick patients were at risk because of the three hour drive for treatment at Mexicali hospitals. Patients died who could have been saved by more immediate care. Unable to accept this lack of a hospital in their community, they committed all of their life´s savings to build the one and one half million dollar facility. They also loaned St. James an additional $350,000 dollars to sustain operations until the hospital´s revenue is sufficient to be self supporting.
The Somers were not content with just a ¨run of the mil¨ hospital. St. James infirmary is a small facility but with ¨state of the art¨ technology for diagnosis and treatment that is found in only large urban hospitals. Since opening a few months ago they have treated eight myocardial infarctions, four emergency C sections and have developed a much needed pain clinic. The hospital has a doctor on duty 24 hours a day.
St. James Infirmary is a not for profit hospital. I believe it is the only not for profit hospital in Mexico; not for profit hospitals in the U.S. are not uncommon. What not for profit means is that It is not subsidized by the government and therefore must charge patients in order to sustain itself. It is not a private hospital committed to making a profit. The intention is to provide the highest level of care at the lowest cost.
The primary objective is to save lives and not deny care because of a patient´s inability to pay. All patients with a life threatening condition will be treated, regardless of their ability to pay. Committing all the hospital´s resources and staff to treatment without monetary considerations. Being outside the governmental health care system, payment for services from patients is essential to the hospital´s existence. Therefore, all patients who can pay or have medical insurance will be charged for their care. The Somers have also committed ten percent of the hospital´s revenue to DIF (aid to dependent families).
In addition to satisfying the communities health needs, the hospital has been a boom to real estate sales people in San Felipe who boast about the facility to prospective retirees. Good health care is vital to senior citizens. As a result of St. James Infirmary, more U.S. retirees are choosing San Felipe. This is important to the communities economy that is heavily dependent on tourism, including retirees. They are the best tourists - build homes, pay taxes and buy goods and services throughout the year, not just tourist season.
I am proud to say that Duke and Caroline Somers are friends of mine. They are definitely friends to anyone needing medical care in San Felipe. I suggest you visit St. James Infirmary and give the Somers a ¨fuerte abrazo¨: they deserve it
for more information about Medical Services in Baja California, please feel free to call from U.S. 619-819-9369 or in Mexico (646) 176 6759
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