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Hospital Care in Mexico

Doctor rushing down a hospital hallway
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Whether you are an expat living in Mexico, an aspiring expat planning a move to the country or a medical tourist considering a surgical procedure, it is important to know about hospital care in Mexico.

About two-thirds of Mexico’s over 4,000 hospitals are private and the rest are public facilities, which serve those enrolled in IMSS, ISSSTE and Seguro Popular, all part of government-funded healthcare in Mexico.

Hospital building
Credit: Blondsteve | Thinkstock

Most expats primarily use private hospitals but some are enrolled in IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social), the national program that serves about two-thirds of the country’s employed. IMSS has its own hospital network throughout Mexico and is generally well regarded but often overcrowded. Quality of IMSS hospitals generally varies by location.

Expats holding temporary or permanent visas are allowed to enroll in IMSS, which provides a wide range of medical and dental services and prescriptions for less than US$400 annually. You can get more details in our article, “Health Insurance Options for Expats in Mexico.”

The best-equipped hospitals in Mexico tend to be in major cities, according to Dr. Santiago Hernandez. Dr. Hernandez spoke to the quality of hospitals in our article, “Healthcare in Mexico.” He pointed out that two private hospitals – San Javier and Puerta de Hierro – in Guadalajara are examples of medical facilities that have the same amenities and technology that a university hospital would have in the U.S. He added that many IMSS hospitals also have the same modern technology but access can be slow because of overcrowding at public hospitals.

There are several levels of private hospitals in Mexico: Small hospitals with limited service, hospitals that provide some additional services above the basic level, larger hospitals that provide a wide range of medical services and major city hospitals in Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City that provide transplant medical procedures.

Key to deciding on a hospital in Mexico is accreditation. The General Health Council of Mexico provides CSG Accreditation for all private and public hospitals. The accreditation program covers hospitals, outpatient medical units, psychiatric units, rehabilitation facilities and other healthcare organizations in Mexico. To apply for accreditation, a healthcare organization must be established for at least a year and be properly licensed. If applicable, at least one year must have passed since an organization received a “Not Certified” notice from the health council.

A certified hospital must meet the following criteria for accreditation:

1. Meets the general standards between 60 and 74 percent of the time and the essential standards 100 percent of the time. CSG Accreditation for two years.

2. Meets the general standards between 75 and 84 percent of the time and the essential standards 100 percent of the time. CSG Accreditation for two years.

3. Meets the general standards above 84 percent of the time and the essential standards 100 percent of the time. CSG Accreditation for three years.

San Javier Hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Hospital San Javier

One of Mexico’s top rated private hospital organizations is San Javier, which has two hospitals in the Puerto Vallarta area and one in Guadalajara. We spoke with the organization’s Puerto Vallarta Chief Executive Officer, Jesus Flores, to better understand what expats could expect from his hospitals, which recently received the highest rating, 9.9-out-of-10, and re-certification.

“We have two hospitals in the Puerto Vallarta area,” he said. “Our main hospital has been in Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zone for the past 17 years and San Javier Riviera Nayarit in Nuevo Vallarta has been operating since 2011.”

All rooms in San Javier hospitals are private and well appointed. The Puerto Vallarta facility has 25 private rooms plus five intensive care beds, two labor and delivery beds, two recovery beds and three emergency room beds. In Nuevo Vallarta, there are 11 private rooms, three emergency room beds, two recovery beds and two intensive care beds.

“We have the latest technology and a wide range of services at all of our hospitals,” Flores said, “including hemodialysis, a gamma-knife neuro-radiosurgery center, an oncology unit, MRI and many other medical services. Importantly, we don’t need to take our patients in and out of our facilities like other hospitals in the area because we have everything our patients need inside our buildings.”

San Javier Puerto Vallarta is well known for its heart surgery expertise. The first open heart surgery in Puerto Vallarta was performed at the San Javier Puerto Vallarta hospital in 2001.

“We bring surgeons from San Javier Guadalajara to perform our heart surgeries,” Flores said. “We can handle everything here but transplants.”

San Javier Guadalajara, which was recommended by Dr. Hernandez in Chapala, is a large hospital with 168 private rooms and additional beds for intensive care, recovery, emergency and other purposes. Flores said a new 10-story oncology center is being built next to the main hospital.

The San Javier Hospitals accept all Mexican medical insurance and any U.S. insurance that allows for use outside of the country. Medicare, though, cannot be used outside of the U.S. Payment for services may be made by credit card.

“If patients have medical insurance they have to pay a deposit when they are admitted,” Flores said. “Once we receive payment from the insurance company, we refund the deposit.”

Many of the personnel at the San Javier hospitals speak English and the hospitals also provide translators.

CMQ Hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Hospital CMQ

For another perspective on hospital care in Mexico, we asked our Expats In Mexico lifestyle blogger Maria O’Connor to share her recent experience at  CMQ Premiere hospital in Puerto Vallarta.

“CMQ has several hospitals in Puerto Vallarta but I was in the CMQ Premiere on Avenida Francisco Villa for a gastric bypass procedure,” O’Connor said. “The admissions process was a breeze. After I checked in they showed me to my private room, which was beautiful and had a nice view. All of the rooms are very large and have pullout sofa beds for friends and family who want to visit or stay with you during your procedure. It was like staying in a nice hotel room.”

In O’Connor’s case, her physician provided her with a package price of about US$4,500 that included his services, the pre-op and post-op visits, the surgery and all hospitals costs.

Maria O'Connor
Maria O’Connor

O’Connor said that she has a major medical insurance plan through the Mexican firm Inbursa, but did not have to fill out any hospital paperwork because she paid her physician directly.  She chose to pay out-of-pocket instead of using her insurance because she was not sure the procedure would have been covered.  Her coverage is $5,000,000 pesos with a deductible of $10,500 pesos, and she can use any hospital. Her annual health insurance cost is a little over U.S. $1,200 per year, including the 16 percent IVA tax.

She is fluent in Spanish so communication with CMQ staff was not a problem, but she said many of the staff spoke English, were attentive and professional and provided round-the-clock personal care.

“I would much rather have medical procedures done here than in the United States,” she said, “because they look at you as a person and not just a body going through the system. There is much more of a personal touch. More human and caring and they go out of their way to make it a nice experience.”

O’Connor rated her experience a 10, the highest rating. Our Expats In Mexico readers were a bit less generous when it comes to rating the quality of hospital care in Mexico in our Monthly Expat Poll for February. Although a small sample, 22 percent of respondents rated hospitals excellent, 26 percent rated them very good and 14 percent thought they were good. Only 5 percent gave hospitals in Mexico a poor grade.