International Friendship Club: Russian Roulette in Paradise

“Russian Roulette – a deadly game of chance in which a person spins the cylinder of a revolver holding only one bullet, aims the gun at his or her head, and pulls the trigger.” That’s a game I just don’t want to play. The odds of killing myself are only one in six but if my wife and I are both playing the game with the same gun they drop to one in three. Them’s bad odds! That’s why, when we travel outside of Canada, we buy travel insurance. If we didn’t we would be exposed to a financial or a health risk that would “blow our brains out.”

There is no free medical care in Mexico. Period! So, if you do decide to live here for a day or a lifetime, get sick and don’t have the financial resources to meet the medical costs that you will incur for your recovery what happens?

For all medical help, other than that given to patients who stay more than 24 hours in a hospital, you’ll have to dig into your purse or wallet and pay those expenses. I have found that the costs here in Puerto Vallarta are very reasonable but they still cost money.  A consultation with a doctor will cost $600 or $700 pesos, a basic blood test is about $1300 pesos but if have a serious problem and are taken to a private hospital they will not consider admitting you unless you come up with the money to cover the anticipated care. That means that you must have medical insurance or be able to deposit enough cash or credit from your credit card limit to satisfy the costs. These requirements could amount to thousands and thousands of US dollars. If your condition is such that you’ll need air evacuation to Canada or the USA the cost will have to be paid before the plane leaves the runway. A trip to Toronto could be about $60,000USD. Now that is serious Russian roulette.

You might believe that you’re in perfect health but bad stuff happens. A simple mosquito bite can cause dengue fever. Two of our friends suffered from it last year and were seriously ill for a couple of weeks but some people develop dengue haemorrhagic fever, after the initial fever declines, and this can result in a more severe form of the illness that can cause organ damage, severe bleeding, dehydration and even death. (The good news is that cremations in P.V. cost about $1,200USD)

So if you don’t qualify for care at IMSS (and you have to be covered as an employee to do so) and don’t have enough money to cover the anticipated expenses you will be referred to the Regional Hospital, which is there to help the poorest of the poor Mexicans. It’s a sad place, indeed. None of the doctors or nurses speaks English, patients’ families or friends must bring whatever supplies are needed, such as soap, shampoo, food, pads and bandages and family members are not allowed to stay during the night. The staff is wonderful and do the very best that they can with minimal resources but I understand that sometimes they do not receive their salaries for weeks at a time. A few weeks ago one of the nurses said that had it not been for a donation of a specific intubation kit, a child would have died because there are minimal supplies. Often, there are no latex gloves for the medical staff to wear.

Here are a couple of requests I have for you:

1. Do NOT play Russian roulette. Make a plan for how you would pay the costs of, possibly, many thousands of dollars for medical help if you need it. Health insurance, personal resources or help from your family might be your choices.

2. The General Hospital is in desperate need of almost everything. Please bring as much of the following to the offices of the IFC –International Friendship Club – located upstairs above HSBC at the corner of Insurgentes and Libertad between 9:00 and 1:30 Monday to Friday.

  • Soap (especially the hotel size)
  • Toothpaste
  • Combs-Brushes
  • Face cloths
  • Deodorant
  • Diapers ALL sizes
  • Canned milk (NIDO)
  • Baby wipes
  • Shampoo (especially hotel sizes)
  • Baby booties
  • Receiving blankets
  • Medical supplies including gauze pads, diabetic supplies, splints, stethoscopes, surgical scrubs, alcohol wipes

We will take them to the hospital for you. Many many thanks!

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.