March 26, 2024

My Cross-Border Medical Experience in Mexico, Courtesy of WGAT

I’ve always pictured my first visit to Mexico would be a touristy hotspot, complete with a pool, beach and a refreshing drink in hand. Instead, as someone with an immense appreciation for the agricultural industry and its workforce, I was privileged to visit Mexico for an entirely different reason. The occasion for my visit was purely medical and came thanks to Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT).

My journey started on a Tuesday morning, when I crossed the border to visit the OSMED medical clinic in San Luis Rio Colorado in Sonora, Mexico, a border town about 20 miles south of Yuma, Arizona. The 24-hour facility is operated by Dr. Raul Payan, who has been an independent provider contractor in Mexico for WGAT for more than 30 years. Dr. Payan and his team provide general and urgent care, imaging and routine medical services to the community, including essential migrant workers who play a significant role in growing our food.

OSMED medical clinic stands out as an ideal destination for migrant agricultural workers due to its convenience. An estimated 80 percent of the clinic’s patients reside in the U.S. and commute across the border to receive their care. I arrived at the facility within minutes after crossing the border and was warmly greeted by Dr. Payan at the entrance. But before starting my tour of the facility, I made sure to get the full Mexico Cross-Border health care experience.

WGAT designed its comprehensive Mexico Cross-Border Program to provide flexible medical and dental care options for members and their families who prefer to receive their care in Mexico. Within WGAT’s exclusive network, members can find licensed providers and medical facilities in several convenient locations. These providers offer a comprehensive range of specialty and diagnostic services, including anesthesiology, cardiology, neurology, dermatology, internal medicine and orthopedics. Making an appointment works the same way as it does in the U.S.— by simply reaching out to a provider to schedule a date and time for your services. At this facility, walk-ins are welcome for general practice services, while appointments are necessary for specialty care, imaging services and lab work.

The Full Mexico Cross-Border Experience

OSMED’s reception room was bright, airy and spacious and was completely devoid of the typical discomfort often associated with doctor’s offices. The clinic’s efficiency started the moment I approached the reception desk, where multiple employees were greeting and assisting patients. After a smooth intake process in the reception area, I had my vitals taken in a room adjacent to the reception desk and then proceeded to an examination room for a general checkup with a physician.

The exam room was large and comfortable, complete with an examination table and several chairs positioned beside the doctor’s station. When Dr. Payan constructed this facility six years ago, he designed it with the patient experience in mind. “It’s important for patients to establish a personal rapport with their doctors, and we strive to make sure each visit is personalized, conversational and designed for their comfort,” he said.

Once my checkup was complete, I was escorted a short distance to the diagnostics, imaging and specialty medicine unit’s reception area. From there, I was guided to a private room for my blood draw, where I was informed my results would be ready in a few short hours.

The experience was quick and efficient, and the staff went above and beyond to accommodate me. I’m not fluent in Spanish, so a bilingual care provider was by my side throughout the entire process. She mentioned that she grew up in Arizona, attended school in Mexico and eventually decided to stay there for work.

Raising the Bar

I must confess that before my visit to OSMED, I was expecting to see a standard medical facility, at best. I’ve lived in multiple states in the U.S. and have seen my fair share of waiting rooms, doctor’s offices, urgent care facilities and hospitals, and none of them have been particularly noteworthy or remarkable. And up until now, I never would have imagined describing a medical facility as “grand in scale” or “extremely pleasant.”

While there are numerous medical facilities that describe themselves as cutting-edge or state-of-the-art, OSMED truly lived up to its reputation. The facility boasts eight examination rooms; an observation area; and a diagnostic, imaging, and medical specialty unit equipped for mammograms, cardiac diagnostic testing and other minor procedures.

OSMED’s mammography room was spacious and inviting. Large-screen televisions hung on the walls of both sides of the mammogram machine, which played soothing music and displayed calming images to enhance the patient experience during the scan. Patients in the ultrasound room of the specialty unit experience advanced technology with a 4-D ultrasound machine and can instantly view their ultrasound images on a large-screen television.

Within the specialty care clinic, endocrinologists, cardiologists and neurologists rotate throughout the week, providing patients with comprehensive care under one roof. Given the high prevalence of diabetes within Hispanic and agricultural communities, OSMED also provides a dedicated nutrition unit to support its patients. For patients requiring medications, OSMED’s 24-hour pharmacy is conveniently situated right across the street, coincidentally at the former location of Dr. Payan’s previous practice.

The facility’s second floor includes a sizeable breakroom for staff, which includes 15 physicians and 10 registered nurses, and accommodates the administrative offices.

Building for a Healthier Tomorrow

Considering all of these amenities, it’s astonishing to think that Dr. Payan’s first practice consisted of just one examination room and a reception area. Dr. Payan has plans to grow the clinic into a full-scale center for inpatient care right next to the facility. Last October, Dr. Payan initiated construction on a planned five-story hospital and specialty care tower, with an anticipated completion date set for fall 2025.

The hospital has gained the attention of several stateside investors, including U.S. board-certified physicians and Siemens. According to Dr. Payan, the hospital will be a certified, sustainable green building, a certification that no other hospitals hold in Mexico. The new hospital will enable U.S. board-certified physicians to perform more affordable procedures in Mexico while providing essential ag workers and their families convenient and quality access to care at a reduced cost.

WGAT has spent the last 50 years building and fostering contractual relationships with providers in Mexico for this very reason. “WGAT is an early pioneer of cross-border healthcare, ensuring our members have convenient access to high-quality care at a fraction of U.S. costs,” said Raquel Lugo, Senior Director of Client Services and Mexico Operations at WGAT. “Similar to Western Growers, Dr. Payan understands that farmworkers take care of the world by providing us with nutritious food, so it’s essential that we provide them with essential services, such as healthcare.”

If there’s one key takeaway from my cross-border experience, it’s the reassurance that migrant farmworkers, who exemplify the spirit of hard work and dedication to ensure we have access to an abundant food supply, are receiving exceptional care and support when it comes to their health.

If you’re a member of WGAT and would like more information on our Mexico Cross-Border program, you can contact Raquel Lugo [email protected]. If you’re not currently enrolled in a WGAT plan, reach out to Western Growers Insurance Services to learn more about our offerings and discover how we can assist you in effectively managing your health care costs at (800) 333-4942.