¿Dr. Santiago Hernandez, Medical Director of the new Ribera Medical Center.
Patrick O’Heffernan, Ajijic. This past Friday the new Ribera Medical Center was inaugurated in a ceremony studded with stars of the medical establishment, including Secretary of Health Dr. Jorge Alcocer Carlos Varela, as well as local dignitaries like Chapala President Moisés Alejandro Anaya Aguilar. The two story state-of-the-art facility was envisioned 4 years ago by its investors, led by Luis Antonio Michel Ruelas of the Vallarta Medical Center and Humberto Famanía Ortega of Puerto Vallarta. The actual opening is scheduled for October 31, although it could be a few days earlier, if the final equipment is installed early and finishing touches applied to the building.
Two day before the inauguration, the Medical Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Santiago R. Hernandez, M.D. who is also Director of ChapalaMed, sat down with Laguna for a conversation about the new hospital and hospital care in Lakeside.
Laguna: How did you determine that a private hospital was needed in Lakeside, since there is a new hospital in San Antonio, a hospital in Ajijic and new cardiac center in west Ajijic.
Dr. Hernandez: Our vision started in 2016 when one of our main investors planned to open a nursing care center and we did know about the plans for a new hospital in San Antonio. In 2017, when we formalized our plans, we did quite a bit of study and we found that there is a need for a full-service hospital that could handle emergencies, heart attacks and strokes, and had the necessary ICU, labs – everything that would expect to find in a hospital north of the border, where my standards come from.
Laguna: So that capability does not exist in Lakeside now?
Dr. Hernandez: We did not see all that capability in one place in Lakeside. The other medical centers have some of it, but lack other elements like an ICU or cardiac catherization lab, or the ability to accept all emergencies, although they may add these capabilities later. The Ribera Medical Center will have all the capabilities that you would expect from a hospital up north all in one place.
Laguna: What do you plan to offer at the Ribera Medical Center?
Dr. Hernandez: At this point in time, Ribera Medical Center will be dedicated primarily for emergencies and for surgery. We will do all levels of surgery, except transplants or open-heart surgery – we need to be open for a couple of years and have our blood bank ready for those kinds of procedures – but everything else. And eventually, we will be able to handle almost all other kinds of procedures.
Laguna: What kind of equipment and facilities will the hospital have at opening?
Dr. Hernandez: We will have an ICU, a neo-natal unit, a labor and delivery room, and an emergency room; at this point we have 14 hospital rooms, a fully functioning blood bank, an infusion lab for chemotherapy, a cardiac catherization lab – a hybrid lab where we can take care of heart attacks or strokes, three surgical suits, and full imaging. We have CT and full radiology and x-ray and mammography now, and we are expecting delivery of the MRI equipment and insulation for installation in our MRI room.
Laguna: What doctors will have admitting privileges at the Medical Center?
Dr. Hernandez: We are an open hospital, which means that as Medical Director my job will be to vet the credentials of all doctors who want privileges. I will make sure they are trained and certified for the surgery they want to do here. So, if a cardiology surgeon wants to admit a patient for heart surgery, they have to be certified for this kind of surgery. In another example, we can’t have a general practitioner without certification granted privileges to do plastic surgery, which is done in Guadalajara.
Laguna: Do the high standards you describe indicate that the Medical Center will be involved in medical tourism?
Dr. Hernandez: We intend for this hospital to be one of the main hubs in for medical tourism. I am member of the Congreso de Nacional Turismo Medico in Mexico; we promote medical tourism on a national and international basis. We want to promote that the doctors at our hospital have full credentials and respect here and abroad. Plus, our telemedicine partnerships should give patients additional confidence. And it is convenient that the Radisson Hotel is right across the street.
Laguna: Will you take Medicare from the USA?
Dr. Hernandez: The short answer is no…there is no legal way to take Medicare in Mexico. I know the hospital in San Antonio says they work with Medicare, but “working with” and taking Medicare insurance are two different things. There is no legal way for us to take the insurance. Usually in cases where an American has been out of the US for 16 days or less, Medicare will reimburse for emergency care. That is the one way we can do it.
Laguna: You are “inaugurating” the medical center this week, but not opening it? When will it be open for patients?
Dr. Hernandez: Right now, I can tell you that we will open by October 31, but it could be sooner.
Laguna: And who will be managing the hospital?
Dr. Hernandez: The Director will be Julio Carbajal from San Miguel de Allende, and the Administrator is Roselda Dominguez.