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Low-cost clinics, good or bad?

The boom of medical practices at pharmacies is the consequence of the decline of the public healthcare system in Mexico
Medical practice at a pharmacy - Photo: Adrián Hernández/EL UNIVERSAL
19/02/2018
08:46
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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In Mexico, public services and utilities offered in several regions of the country – such as transportation or water supply – are usually deficient and unable to meet the needs of the citizens.

Regarding Mexico's healthcare system, even though authorities have tried to improve it, for most Mexicans the system is still equal to long queues, hours of waiting, and an unfriendly attention. It's clear this situation was one of the factors which contributed, in recent years, to the boom of medical practices at pharmacies or drug stores. Another factor was, perhaps, the ban on over-the-counter sale of antibiotics; the solution of many pharmacies was to have a doctor that could issue a prescription.

According to the data published today by EL UNIVERSAL, 10 years ago there were 2,956 medical practices of this kind but today there are 16,000 across the entire Republic. These establishments treat 325,000 people every day – more than the patients treated at the clinics of the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE) or of the Public Insurance (Seguro Popular).

The growth of these practices is only a consequence of the decline of the public healthcare system in recent years. People prefer to receive medical attention at these practices and pay somewhere between MXN$20 or MXN$50 (USD$1.00 or USD$2.6*) – in some cases, the service is even free – per consult instead of going to their corresponding social security clinic and waste hours traveling to said clinic and waiting for medical attention.

However, this healthcare alternative entails a risk. Receiving medical attention at these practices may prevent the early diagnosis of a chronic, degenerative, or serious illness or disease, which will most likely end up being treated at a clinic part of the public healthcare system but once it has progressed.

Medical practices at pharmacies are filling a gap created by the public healthcare system in Mexico, yet they shouldn't become a replacement. Authorities have established minimum requirements for these practices but we still need that public hospital and other public healthcare services meet the requirements of the citizens. With, willingness, quality, and efficiency, this can be achievable.

*At a rate of USD$1.00 = MXN$18.54

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