Health Care In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Good Old-Fashioned Personalized Health Care (For Less Than The Cost Of Care Back Home)

“It’s not like the old days, when, if you had an accident, you might be taken to a little hut on the beach under a palapa where they’d give you a shot of tequila and then stitch you up,” joked Pamela Thompson, owner of HealthCare Resources Puerto Vallarta.

“Our facilities today are state-of-the-art,” she continued for attendees at our Live and Invest in Puerto Vallarta Conference.

The Banderas Bay area of Puerto Vallarta today boasts 6 private hospitals, 500 registered physicians, and 50 registered dentists. Plus many more qualified, highly trained, but unregistered practitioners.

All this 21st-century health care infrastructure is complemented by a strong tradition of natural healing. Curanderos, as they are called, are Mexico’s original healers and still outnumber allopathic physicians.

The region’s growing medical tourism industry is tapping into these extensive resources, attracting people looking for dental care, plastic surgery, weight loss surgery, and diagnostics, in addition to things like hernia repair, cataract surgery, knee and hip replacements…

“It used to be that people came for cosmetic surgery,” Pamela explained to the group. “Now so many North Americans are realizing that they can come and have their gall bladder or hip surgery taken care of here, as well. Even factoring in the cost of the airfare, the hotel, and other travel expenses, these procedures cost much less here than you’d pay in the United States.

“Come for the procedure, stay for the vacation,” I tell my patients.

“Increasingly, too, people are coming down from the States and Canada for diagnostic procedures. A patient from Canada came here to Puerto Vallarta recently, for example, to get an MRI because he’d been told he’d have to wait months to have it done back home. He wanted to know if a week would be long enough. I told him that a day would be long enough.”

“I can see a patient in the office and have the results of the diagnostic tests I’ve run a few hours later,” added Dr. Peter Gordon, a family physician in Puerto Vallarta for 14 years.

“You don’t need a doctor’s order here to have a diagnostic test performed,” Pamela continued. “We have a lot of people who come down and think, after they’re already here, ‘You know, I’ve been needing an MRI on my shoulder. I wonder if I could make an appointment and get the test done.’ The answer is yes, you can. You don’t need a doctor’s referral, and you don’t need to make an appointment far in advance.”

“Hospital care is typically in a private room and very individual,” explained Dr. Gordon. “And many of the private hospitals are small, offering 14, 18, or 25 beds. Each room has a telephone and WiFi.”

“The other thing hospital rooms typically have,” Pamela added, “is a couch or a fold-out chair. This can be used by the patient, of course, but it’s really there so that the patient’s family can spend the night. The Mexican culture is very family-oriented. They’re used to everybody showing up when someone goes in the hospital, and everybody is welcome. ”

This emphasis on family and community spills over into the patient-doctor relationship.

“The experience of seeing a doctor or spending time in the hospital here is nothing like it is in the busy, busy, busy U.S. and Canada,” Pamela explained.

“I hear it every day from patients,” she said. “‘I can’t believe our doctor didn’t leave,’ they’ll tell me. ‘He sat down with me, listened, for a half-hour or longer.’ It’s just the way things are in Mexico. Doctors take the time to really be with their patients.

“A clinic or hospital isn’t 100 rooms that a doctor has to go back and forth among. It’s much more personal. A doctor will sit by the side of a patient’s bed for an hour at a time.”

Kathleen Peddicord


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