By Dr. Samuel Thelin
Most people do not know how the Emergency Response System functions in the Lake Chapala area, and many are completely confused and unprepared when a serious emergency arises. There are various legal, cultural, language, and regional factors involved. However the emergency response system worked in your home country, it is probably different here. This post is to help explain how the system functions in Mexico, and with regards mostly to the Lake Chapala, Jalisco area so that everyone has the opportunity to be prepared in case of a medical emergency.
I am not going to discuss all the clinics simply because I do not have involvement with all of them them. The two clinics that play the largest role in emergencies here are the Cruz Roja and the Clinica Municipal in Chapala, and the main ambulance services being the Cruz Roja, Clinica Municipal, and Bomberos (Fire Department) of Chapala. The main ambulance service for home calls, for now, being the Cruz Roja. It is also the main, but not the only, ambulance service for auto accidents. If you later need just observation, do not impose on the Cruz Roja. They do not admit patients for long-term stays, and do not have the extra help to monitor patients at the same time they are working with emergency patients. Hospital Ajijic and Clinica Ibarra (in Chapala) are two good options if you need a local clinic with hospital beds, and do not need any major medical intervention.
First, who do you call? There are two options to call the Cruz Roja. You can call 065 and the information will be tranferred indirectly through the state system, or the better option is to call the Cruz Roja in Chapala directly at (376) 765-2308. They need to know the nature of the problem, but keep it short. Make sure the ambulance driver can find you. Have your house number clearly marked and illuminated (part of planning ahead). If your street has no street sign, get one. If your street is three parts that do not connect, changes its name at some point, or #527 comes between 600 and 700 on your street, they need to know that, too.
If you have a good realtionship with your private doctor, you can include him or her if they are available. They should know your history better than anyone else, and also know where you might best be treated. Going to a regular doctor and giving a full history is very important. If you go to a $10 doctor at a pharmacy one time for a cold, do not expect anyone to be of much help when you need a personal doctor for a real emergency.
Whether you are brought in by ambulance, walk in, or are carried in, the emergency clinics will try to do the best possible for each patient. However, sometimes special medical attention is needed such as emergency surgery or advanced laboratory or image (CAT scan, MRI, etc) exams that are not available locally. This is not as simple as in the USA, or many other countries. Unfortunately, many people want, and even expect to taken to a “free” government hospital by private ambulance without a government triage permit number (S.A.M.U. numero de Regulación), even though it is illegal. On a typical ambulance call, the EMTs evaluate the patient. Not everyone needs or wants more treatment. If medical treatment is needed, there are two options at this point. – be transported by ambulance to a local clinic for treatment, or if you and your personal doctor already know you need hospitalized, you can pay for private transport to a private hospital in Guadalajara (keep in mind that private hospitals want proof you can pay – usually a deposit of at least $15,000 pesos to just get in, or proof of insurance). You can also sign a release form and go to a government-subsidized hospital by your own personal transportation or taxi. However, taking you to a government-subsidized hospital such as Hospital Civil by ambulance is not an immediate option because it is illegal without permission by S.A.M.U. (Servicio de Atencion Medica de Urgencias). Any private medical establishment must be given a permit number to take any patient to any government-affiliated hospital. There are more people needing “free” emergency care than there are doctors and hospitals to treat them. S.A.M.U. determines who gets permission based on need and ability to benefit. Those with government insurance get permission faster because there are simply more insurance hospitals. IMSS has 7 major hospitals in Guadalajara, ISSSTE has another, etc. Without insurance most everyone will go to one of the two Civil Hospitals, and space is limited. Those who would die without rapid attention, and who will probably live after treatment are at the top of the list. Non-emergencies and patients with chronic conditions, who would probably die even with rapid treatment, are near the bottom. Everyone else is somewhere in between, but not at the top, and depending on your condition and how many new patients make the top of the list while you are waiting, the waiting time could be hours, days, or weeks.
Everyone needs to have a plan. Know which options will apply to you, and plan accordingly. Consider the role of insurance, your private doctor, and communicate with family and friends regarding what you want them to do for you, or you for them, in case of a serious medical emergency.
Hospitals of interest for the non-insured, and those lacking funds for a private hospital, are:
Hospital Civil “Fray Antonio Alcalde” (Viejo)
Calle Hospital #278 (urgencias adultos)
Calle Hospital #310
Calle Coronel Calderón #777 (urgencias pediatría)
Colonia Centro, Guadalajara
33 3614 5501
Urgencias Adultos: ext. 174
Urgencias Pediatría: ext. 201
Medicina Interna Adultos: ext 212
Terapia Intensiva Adultos: ext. 201
Consulta Externa: ext. 226
Cardiolgía: ext. 212
Trabajo Social: 33 3614 5801 ext. 177
Hospital Civil “Dr. Juan I. Menchaca” (Nuevo)
Salador de Quevedo y Zubieta #750, S.L.
33 3618 9362
For trauma, you can also go to one of two Cruz Verdes that offer orthopedic and trauma service. These hospitals are actually intended for the residents of Guadalajara, but they will work with people from outside.
Cruz Verde – Francisco Ruíz Sánchez
Antonio Tello Nº 215 (entre calle 52 y Medrano)
33 1201 8401
Cruz Verde – Jesús Delgadillo Araujo
Mariano Barcenas Nº 997 Esq. Privada Veracruz
Col. Alcalde Barranquitas
33 1201 7200
For Poisoning and overdoses, there is a special Cruz Verde. While the some local clinics do handle simple overdoses, scorpion stings, etc., this Cruz Verde does only intoxication (drugs, scorpion, spider, snakes, etc).
Centro Regional de Información y Atención Toxicológica (C.R.I.A.T.)
Av. Los Angeles, esq. Analco
Unidad Administrativa Reforma, Col. Las Conchas
C.P. 44460, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Dr. Alberto Iram Villa Manzano
Tel. Directo (333) 669.1338
Tel. Conmutador (333) 669.1320 al 25, Ext. 1338
Note: I do keep one dose of Black Widow antivenom at my office. However, the actual cost (what I paid) is $2000 pesos, not counting medical attention cost.