Negotiating Medical and Bureaucratic Mazes in Merida vs. Seattle

Beryl Gorbman

Sometimes it seems like accomplishing things in Merida is more complex and more time consuming than in the USA. And that many of the services are not up to par. Is this really true?

I had a bad toothache in Merida recently, and went to my generally competent dentist for treatment. After taking a couple of x-rays, he determined that a wisdom tooth was trying to break through (at my advanced age), in back of an existing tooth. This conflict for space was painful, he said. He treated me with an antibiotic and an an analagesic pain pill. He suggested waiting it out for a while. Ouch.

I did not realize that dentsts here cannot presicribe serious pain medication. And for that matter, neither can an M.D.

“Please give me dilaudid,” I whimpered, but he only smiled.

I ended up changing dentists. I went to a light-fingered young woman near the Merida English Library, who took an x-ray and discovered a “huge” cavity. No sign of a descending wisdom tooth. She pulled the tooth. Problem solved.

When things like this happen, it is easy to conclude that Mexican dentists are not as skilled as American ones. That in the USA, something like an incorrect diagnosis could never happen. Logically, we all know that’s not true. But Mexico is foreign and unfamiliar, and it can be harder for foreigners to be assertive. We feel less confident and blame it on the Mexican systems.

A common, though probably incorrect perception, is that consumer-oriented administrative processes, like banking or home ownership issues are more ponderous in Mexico than they are in the United States. It’s easy for some of us to see things this way, because if you don’t speak Spanish, everything really is more difficult. However, when I had to get a new driver’s license in Seattle recently, or straighten out bank errors in my checking account, I spent many hours waiting and hoping. The driver’s license took two hours and required that I stand in three different lines.

In fact, processes in the USA are often nearly impossible. Two years ago, Macy’s started charging me monthly for some type of service I had not purchased. The total rose as I tried unsuccessfully to deal with customer service in India for many months. I finally insisted on speaking with management in the USA, and they removed all the weird charges, bringing my account total to zero. I thought it was over.

This year, the same thing started again. And again I’ve been hammering at Macy’s with no success. Now the account is going to collections.

If I had to deal with this in Spanish, I would have to use a translator because my Spanish is not up to these complex conversations. It might seem like an insurmountable bureaurocratic issue, a failing of the Mexican financial systems.

But alas, no conclusion is straightforward. On my street in Sta. Ana, we cannot depend on the mail service. Mail simply doesn’t reach us. The only thing we get is utility bills. In the USA, our mail system is flawless.

ON THE OTHER HAND…In the USA, if my dog gets hit by a car, I have to find a special 24-hour vet, transport my bloody pet to them, and pay astronomical rates for after-hours care. In Merida, if such a thing should happen, I would simply call Dr. Tony or Dr. Nelson at any hour on their cell phones, and they would send someone to my house to transport my pet to their hospital, Planned Pethood, where they would meet us. You can’t even pay for empathic treatment like this in the USA – it simply isn’t available.

Tony Rios, DVM

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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