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true that their hands are sometimes tied because of what IMSS will cover. For
example, I've had a few doctors tell me that there are better blood pressure
meds, but there are only certain ones within the approved IMSS line-up.
Also, within IMSS, like most of Mexican culture, it does make a difference
in who you know. On my second emergency room visit, I developed a friend-
ship with a surgeon who was on duty but who wanted to practice his English.
After treating him and his wife to breakfast and after invitations to their home
for breakfast, I had a friend who gave me his cell number, home number, con-
sultation office number, etc. During my last blood pressure/irregular heart
beat crisis, he was happy to come to my home, assist as he could and phone a
cardiologist friend who saw me later that day and immediately brought me
back to normal. I gladly paid 250 pesos for the cardiologist visit. But he point-
ed out that he was also an IMSS doctor, and should I need additional cardiol-
ogy care, just request him through my friend (the IMSS surgeon) and he
would phone my IMSS family doctor to make the necessary arrangements to
make sure I got the paperwork in place to get to him.
Two last notes: For on-going monthly care such as blood pressure medicine,
the system won't allow issuing a prescription for more than a month's worth
of meds. It means a monthly trip to the family doctor, but it is very simple. The
receptionist will set up the next month's appointment while you are there. It
takes ten minutes to meet with your doctor, and pick up your meds, and you're
out the door.
Another word of advice: Contrary to our conception of "Mexican time"
that is always running an hour late, when they say 7:30, I'd show up at 7:15.
Only certain activities such as X-rays or lab work are on a first-come, first-
served basis, i.e. when you get an authorization slip that says show up at 7:30
for lab work, there will be a line of thirty people at 7:15 and you'll be treated
in order of arrival. I have to say, they move very fast. They have the system per-
fected for processing bodies quickly.
For regular appointments, stop by to set up an appointment, they ask that
you arrive 15 minutes prior to the assigned time. It's a good idea. You usually
get whisked in and out early or at least by the time of your appointment. If you
have an unforeseen problem like a sore throat and want to see the doctor with-
out an appointment, show up at 7:15. They say 7:30, but that means you are at
the end of the line. The system is very efficient at seeing and treating everyone
showing up by 7:30, prior to their treatment of patients with appointments
that start at about 9:00. There have been a couple of times I didn't know the
night before that I needed a doctor visit the next morning so I didn't plan to
go at 7:15. I showed up mid-morning. And even though the receptionist will
give you the lecture about how you need to be there at 7:30 if you have no
Char les A. Hall