Sunday, April 18, 2010

Loreto's Maestro Limpio

To a casual visitor to the town of Loreto it may not be obvious, but most of the essentials for day to day life are available here, although they often look different and may not operate in a way that is familiar.

For most people here on holiday the focus in town is sightseeing, principally the Jesuit Mission church, built over 300 years ago, it was the first Catholic church on the Baja and served as the base from which a string of Missions were built as far north as Tijuana. Or they are here for the fishing, the almost perfect weather, sightseeing or just enjoying spending time in a beautiful place.

However, for those of us lucky enough to spend half the year here, or longer, there are some more practical services required. Fortunately, I have not required any medical services while I have been here, although I know a number of people who have, and, for the most part, they have found the help they needed for prescriptions or first aid levels of care.

There are a number of Doctors in the town, some of whom speak good English and often they have their own Farmacia, providing prescriptions and over-the- counter medications. I have also heard of local homeopathic practitioners, who use herbs and natural treatments along with physical therapy to alleviate symptoms and provide relief.

Of course there is also our local Hospital, which opened a couple of years ago, and provides a higher level of EMS care along with an important focus on maternity care, with one of the two operating rooms dedicated to childbirth. However, more serious conditions or emergencies are often referred to the larger Hospitals in Constitution or even La Paz, depending on the level of treatment and care required.

One service that I have used here is dental care, specifically getting my teeth cleaned, which has been a very satisfactory experience. I have been a patient at a large downtown Dental Clinic in Calgary for many years – located on the mezzanine of a high-rise office building, it is tastefully decorated with loads of high tech equipment, 3 Dentists and many assistants and support staff. At this clinic, my routine cleaning appointment, performed by a 30-something hygienist, and usually taking about half an hour, followed by a quick inspection by the Dentist has cost me close to $300.

There are several Dentists here in Loreto and when I heard some good reports about Dr. Ramos, from friends who had used him, I booked my first appointment for a cleaning last year. His office is on Ayuntamiento, couple of blocks off Juarez. While the space is small, it has a waiting area at the entrance partitioned off from the clinic area, which has two very modern chairs with all the associated paraphernalia. One of these chairs has been added since my last visit a year ago and there is a small office area around the corner.

As one would expect, the office is kept immaculately clean, and Dr. Ramos is justifiably proud of his professional clinic. He is also an interesting person himself – the closest example I have seen down here of a Mexican Yuppie. In his 30’s, with stylishly gelled hair and contemporary frames for his glasses, he is one of the emerging “professional” class in this small town. Ramos’ practice could be best described as general dentistry; cleanings, fillings, extractions, etc. but he occasionally works with a specialist who travels from La Paz to do more intricate procedures like implants and crowns.

Although I was only having a simple cleaning procedure done, I was impressed with the technology that he used. Back in Calgary I was familiar with the “prod and scrape” procedure, where the hygienist used small hand tools to manually remove the tartar, before using a rotary polisher to finish the job. While here in this small office in a small “backwater” town in the Baja, Dr. Ramos used an ultrasonic tool that cleaned the teeth quickly and comfortably using high speed vibration – a much faster and more pleasant procedure.

I think that it is also worth noting that it was the Dentist himself that did the procedure, not a hygienist, and so I was getting a thorough inspection of my teeth at the same time – oh yes, and did I mention, the charge for my cleaning here was 500 pesos (about $40 US), about 1/7 of what I was used to paying in Calgary! For those of you who will be in Loreto, and may be interested in a little “Dental Tourism”, Dr. Ramos can be contacted at 613-135-2484 or - tell him Drew, the guy with the long grey hair, sent you.

So this week I took care of a personal hygiene issue faster, easier and much cheaper than I would have been able to back in Canada, and at the same time I was supporting one of the new members of an emerging professional class of Loretano. I also have made a small but important step in my integration into the “regular” life of the town, an important part of Living Loreto.