Medicine — the healthy side of Baja tourism

Surgeries and office visits up 20 percent

Oasis of Hope clinic in Playas de Tijuana
  • Oasis of Hope clinic in Playas de Tijuana

About 750,000 Americans a year visit Baja California for medical care, according to Karim Chalita Rodríguez, president of a medical trade group that goes by the name of Clúster Médico Dental y Hospitalario de Baja California. Chalita Rodríguez is also president of the Tijuana Chamber of Commerce.

Chalita Rodríguez

Chalita Rodríguez

While medical tourism has grown by about 20 percent in the last year, he said in an interview published August 22 in El Sol de Tijuana, data available to the medical industry in Baja do not specify which areas of practice are responsible for the increase.

“Many times the patient who comes for an office visit is not counted and only surgeries like plastic surgery or bariatric surgery are counted,”

he said. “We have failed to quantify well the patient who comes just for an office visit, even though they represent a major economic flow into our state. And he who comes for an office visit, when done, looks for other attractions in the city.”

Those coming to Baja just for an office visit account for an influx of about $80 million annually into the Baja economy, and about 85 percent of that is spent in Tijuana, he said.

Should the US Congress approve immigration reform, medical tourism to Baja would spike even higher, said Chalita Rodríguez, because there are many Mexicans living in the US who would prefer to obtain medical care in Mexico for cultural reasons but fear problems returning to the US should they cross the international border.

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I have a friend in Tijuana who is a doctor, dentist, and a plumber, and said his plumbing license was far more difficult to obtain than the other two. Some health professionals in Tijuana are excellent, but this is not necessarily so, and US professionals have complained about sterility of instruments, as autoclaves are not the standard. So, it is far more possible to contract HIV. Since the average doctor who deals with the Mexican public makes less than $5 per hour, it is certainly a good price, but those who deal with Americans try to charge an American sort of price. Fine and good, but in Mexico is is generally NOT possible to sue for malpractice, or even intentional harm. If your insurance will cover a US visit, that is probably a good choice, because if a mistake is made (or the doctor is high on dope), you can at least sue for damages.

I did Tijuana tourism and San Diego tourism for years, and, now retired, still have a web page or two on it all. I make not one penny on any of it nowadays. All I want is to have you be informed of every possible scam or pitfall, plus what it looks like, in advance. That way you have a great time, never get cheated, and understand everything. That is what a good tour guide does. My page on Tijuana is at, and I have not taken any money on it, nor will I. On second thought, since I feed starving people in TJ every day, any money I would take in can go to them, but not me. Dr. John Kitchin. No, I am NOT Slomo, who has the same name!

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