Tag Archives: Health care in Mexico

I can see!–Getting prescription glasses in Mexico

You can't buy happinessbutyou can buy new glasses which is almost the same thing!

A few weeks ago I realized I couldn’t see a thing. My transition lens had snapped, crackled and well, not quite popped, but you get the picture. They were more than 6 years old and I use them every day, riding the moto in sun, rain, wind and occasional hail, so I guess I certainly got my money’s worth.

I really didn’t want to bother with new glasses. I dug out the pair circa 1990. Voila! Well, of course, I look like an owl, but I’m too old to worry about fashion, right? I started calling them my night-vision goggles because they were so clear I could practically see in the dark. And that was a problem. Yep, I can’t see to drive with them as they MAGNIFY the sun’s rays to the extent that I’m nearly driving with my eyes closed. Not safe.

So I started researching if I could repair my crackled glasses myself–maybe if I took the protective covering off? I tried fingernail polish remover. It didn’t work. The wonderful world of internet suggested Armour Glass Etching Cream.

Only I couldn’t find Armour Etch in any of our local stores. Amazon had some, but a bottle was more than 600 pesos. I only needed a little bit! My sister found some at a craft store and picked up a bottle for me. I’m waiting for it to arrive and do its magic.

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Meanwhile, I decided that a pair of prescription sunglasses was what I needed. I stopped at one optometrist the afternoon of the teacher meeting (See Mexican Educational Reform and Political Wrangling) that I missed so that I could make my lab appointment. (See All Around the Health Care Bush) I went in, looked around and knocked on the glass display case. There was no one there. I waited a bit while I perused the frame options.  Finally, the clerk dashed into the store with a bit of donut on her cheek. She had stepped out for a quick snack apparently.

I asked if it were possible to repair the glasses I already had. She hemmed and hawed and basically said no. I could replace the lenses if I like, but she couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t break the frames when they put the new ones in. Did I know what the prescription was for these lenses? No, well, then I would need an eye exam too. The exam would be 400 pesos and the two lenses would be 700 pesos, plus new frames because hey, the new lens insertion process might just break them. Ok, well, I’d think about it.

So I went to another place. The eye exam would be 250 pesos and I could go right in. The optometrist was about 70. His diploma (with picture) showed him at about age 20 and from the looks of the wood paneled office, that’s about the last time the office was remodeled. I swear his eye checker machine was used as a prop for the series Little House on the Prairie when Mary was going blind, but I suppose it was in working order.

He called out for his secretary to check the prescription of my glasses. That little procedure seemed to be top-secret, but there must have been a machine in the outer office that would determine the prescription of my lenses because less than 2 minutes later she was back with the prescription. Must be something the girl at the first place knew nothing about. The comparison of my eye exam and my lens prescription showed that my eyes had changed very little in the last 6 years. I didn’t need an eye exam after all. At least, it was only 250 pesos.

The elderly optometrist said that I would be a good candidate for a surgery that was not LASIK surgery to correct my eyesight. I certainly wasn’t interested in that! What if something went wrong and I ended up blind—that’s sorta permanent you know. Glasses would be fine.

The elderly optometrist also gave me a list of vitamins he said I should take–Resvit (a vitamin capsule), Blefa-ir for blefaritis (burning of the eyes), Luvit (couldn’t find any information on that), and Lagrilub (which is a company that specializes in pharmaceuticals).

I don’t know about you, but I have never had an eye exam that ended with a list of vitamins in the US. I was suspicious of this snake oil salesman tactic. Besides, my eyes only started burning when the optometrist put in the yellow burny drops to check who knows what in my eyes. I told the secretary (who was probably the wife) that I didn’t get paid until Monday (which was true) and that I only wanted to pay for the exam today. I picked out frames but didn’t pay for them–remember payday was still 3 days away. I made sure it would be ok to pay part on Monday and pay the other half on the next payday and it was. My glasses would be more than I make during one quincena (2 week pay period) That just made my day!

I went back on Monday afternoon, having already successfully had a blood draw in the morning (see All Around the Health Care Bush), and put down a deposit. The office girl (probably the daughter of the secretary and optometrist as she very clearly resembled them both) wrote me out a receipt and said the glasses would be there “en 8 dias” (one week) but that there was no problem in picking it up on the 15th. Yippee!!

Well, the place is only open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and the 15th fell on a Tuesday this year, so I had to wait until the 16th to pick up my glasses. They were there all right and everything was hunky dory. I let her clean the lenses but didn’t wait for much else before snatching them up and putting them on. Oh HAPPY Day! I could see! I placed my magnifying night-vision goggles in the glass case and skipped back to my moto.

So, since I opted for the sunglasses rather than the transition lenses, I do have to change my glasses when I go inside, or when I’m outside and it’s dark, but overall, I’m pleased with this particular health care transaction.

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My new shades–because the future is so bright you know!

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All Around the Health Care Bush–the weasel chased the monkey

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Hospital Regional in Uriangato, Guanajuato

Monday found me up at the crack of dawn to make the 30-minute commute to the Regional. I arrived just after 6 am again and the waiting room was full–again. I asked the place check question and took my seat. Everyone queued up when directed and handed in our appointment slip (stamped of course) or the specimen sample. Then we waited. It was after 8 when finally my name was called. The blood draw took less than a minute. All in all, I had waited 12 hours for that blood draw. It doesn’t do any good to complain. That’s just the way it is–this time. Who knows what the procedure will be in 6 months when I come back?

I had no problem picking up the lab results a day before the actual doctor’s appointment. I just butted in line and handed the clerk my paper and she gave me the results. My TSH numbers were looking pretty good–so that dose modification Dr. J gave me last time around seems to have done the trick.

And the actual doctor appointment process has changed. I no longer had to arrive at the crack of dawn to get a ficha (number), but a mere 30 minutes before the scheduled appointment. I didn’t even have to check in at Archivos (archives) for them to pull my file. It was already waiting for me at the nurses desk where I checked in and had my blood pressure checked and weight recorded. The nurses sent me along to Consultorio 5–Medicina Internal (Internal Medicine Consulting Office 5) and I sat down. It was only a 2-hour wait from there–record time actually.

The new doctor seemed to be about 25 years old. I’m not sure he was a doctor, maybe just a body to fill the chair.  I was a little put off that Dr. J wasn’t there, but those with Seguro Popular (Beggars) can’t be choosers I suppose. Anyway, he verified that my TSH levels were good. He asked for my previous prescription sheet from Dr. J. Unfortunately, I had left that at home. He seemed put out. He asked what medication I had been taking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember. He seemed even more put out. I asked if that information wasn’t recorded in my file there in front of him. That seemed to bother him too. He asked me what I would do if my file were lost. My Spanish failed me here and I understood that my file had actually been lost. Confused, I pointed out that my file was in front of him on the table. So he repeated his hypothetical sentence in the conditional tense. Oh, ok. I said that I still had my previous prescription page only had left it at home. Then the name of the medication hit me–Levothyroxine–and I garbled out what I thought might be the Mexican Spanish name. He understood enough to write it down and give me a new prescription.

He didn’t check for goiters, or any other thyroid like symptoms just sent me on my way. My appointment lasted a little less than 8 minutes. I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m so familiar with my condition because this dude didn’t seem to be.

So then, I headed to Archivos (Archives) to make an appointment for 4 months from now. Four months? Well, as our Seguro Popular policy is up for renewal in 6 months, I suppose that will get me, at least, one more prescription in case we are rejected. Then I went to the Farmacia (pharmacy) to pick up my 4 month supply of medication.

Apparently it was Hypothyroid day at the old Regional.  The two ladies in front of me were there for their own supply of Levothyroxine boxes.  One of the women, an older woman carefully dressed and made-up, was asking the pharmacist about the pills.  The pharmacist didn’t know anything.  The second woman jumped in the conversation and told woman #1 that she shouldn’t take the medicine with coffee or juice or food.  Well, I knew the coffee bit. (See 11 ways coffee can impact your thyroid) Apparently it interferes with the pill’s absorption.  So I chimed in too.  The older woman said that would explain why she still didn’t feel better.  I betcha that kid in the doctor’s seat didn’t mention any of that, the weasel.

Well, I suppose it’s like anything else in Mexico–you need to be your own advocate.

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All Around the Health Care Bush–the monkey chased the weasel

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Regional Hospital in Uriangato.

I’m the monkey that’s doing the chasing of course. If you don’t remember, I have hypothyroidism which requires a blood test and doctor appointment every 6 months. Sounds relatively simple, but there’s a catch. We have Seguro Popular, (Mexican Health Care Insurance) and as such, must go to the Regional Hospital in Uriangato to have any and all procedures and doctor appointments.

It sounds like it would be a better deal right? After all, you’d expect the hospital staff to have better credentials than any Dr. Jose off the street (No offence meant to those Joses who are doctors). However, I’ve found it to be quite a frustrating experience overall (See Mexico’s Seguro Popular–A model of inefficiency). This time around was no exception.Apparently, there are now only 5 doctors during the week to attend to patients (Hay déficit de médicos en el Hospital Regional) which would explain the long lines and slow service to some extent.

Since my appointment 6 months ago, the rigamarole has been changed. In order to make an appointment to have a blood draw, you must arrive sometime after 6 am to wait for a ficha (number). The sign says that they only give out 30 fichas, but that isn’t true. The first attempt landed me number 43. The second attempt (I arrived a bit earlier) I received number 32. The first attempt was a failure. I was still waiting at 11 am–couldn’t wait any longer, and left the hospital without a blood draw appointment. The second attempt happened to be the day of the monthly teacher meeting (See Mexican Educational Reform and Political Wrangling) so I was determined to wait it out. I really didn’t mind that I’d miss the meeting.

When I arrived in the hospital waiting room, I gave out the customary holler–Quien es el ultimo para sacar citas para el laboratorio? (Who is the last to arrive to make an appointment with the lab?) I took note of the woman who claimed to be the last and her brown rebozo and sat near her. Others arrived asking who was the last for the laboratorio (for the actual blood draw or specimen deposit), who was the last for x-rays (the line was short for that) and for picking up resultados (lab results pickup). So there were several lines we all were trying to keep track of.

The blood draw and specimen deposit line formed at 7 am. A bit of pushing and shoving ensued, however as these people already had their appointment, it wasn’t too desperate. Once the 50 odd people were taken care of, the line for the appointments formed. The second line forming was more desperate since everyone knew there was a limited number of numbers available. I had to shoulder my way into the line and ended up pressed up against the back of the woman with the brown rebozo until the line advanced.

When we reached the window, each person received a laminated number. Real high tech here. Then we sat down again. The lady at the window called the numbers and set up the appointments. This process was slowed down as she attended those who had come to pick up lab results. It was now 9 am. Lab result pick-ups are from 9-10. You don’t need a number for this–you just head to the window and butt in line in front of those with numbers waiting to make their appointments. It’s a nice change to the routine when it comes time to pick up results, but while you are waiting for the appointment, it’s a bit frustrating.

So it wasn’t my turn until a bit after 11 am. As my appointment with the doctor was less than a month away and my blood work results take 2 weeks to come back from the lab in Leon, my blood draw was scheduled for Monday. Halleluiah!

Since my lab appointment was the next working day (no blood draws on Saturday or Sunday) I headed to the caja (payments office) for their approval. Last time around I was given a yellow receipt that verified that I this procedure was covered through Seguro Popular. This process has been streamlined with a rubber stamp instead of the yellow receipt. A bit of paper-saving here that shows an improved concern for the environment possibly?

Once I received the official stamp of approval, I was free to go for the day. It was now nearly noon, and I wasn’t in a hurry to head to the teacher meeting, so I set about my second health quest of the day–new glasses. (See I can see!–Getting glasses in Mexico)

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Mexico’s Seguro Popular–Back for more–Round 3

Regional Hospital in Uriangato.

Regional Hospital in Uriangato.

The next Sunday, my husband had his rescheduled appointment at 11:40. Again, it was an all-day event for a 10 minute consultation. The doctor, not the doctor who operated on him mind you, said it was just a small hernia and that wasn’t the problem. She ordered a slew of blood work and told him that if he wanted to see his surgeon, he had transferred to the hospital by the Deportiva.

He went to try and schedule his blood work and was told that now only 35 fichas (numbers) would be given each day and that he would have to get the yellow receipt that says the lab work would be paid for before getting an appointment. (See Mexico’s Seguro Popular–Round 1) So when the cashier opened, he got his receipt. The man at the register said that all those tests would not be covered by Seguro Popular even though we have no contributivo (no co-payment). My husband had to pay 75 pesos to cover all the tests. Then he came the following morning to stand in line for an appointment. His appointment was scheduled for 10 days later.

With his appointment slip and yellow receipt, he was able to get his lab work done. He picked the results up during the week and went to see if he could get an appointment with the surgeon at the other hospital. There he was told he could only have an appointment if the doctor agreed to see him. He waited around all day, but no luck. So the next day he went back to the Regional to schedule a follow-up appointment now that he had the lab results. There he was told that since he normally comes on a Saturday or Sunday, he could only come to schedule the appointment on a Saturday or Sunday. So on Saturday, he went back and scheduled the appointment for the end of the month.

He saw a different doctor this time. This doctor said that his blood lab results were fine. This doctor said that yes, his hernia was not repaired, however, there was a risk involved in a second operation. The doc said that there was a chance it would be better, but a more likely chance that it would become worse. So he told my husband that he should schedule another appointment in a month after he had time to think over his options. Well, my husband has thought it over and decided not to have the operation. I expect that is what the system wanted him to decide all along.

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