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U.S. Government Warns Tourists of Shady Practices at Los Cabos Hospital

photo: Carolyn Savell/Flickr

To paraphrase the famous saying: shit doth occur. Even on vacation.

Maybe you’re in Cabo San Lucas and you step on a stingray, sea urchin, or poison yourself with additive-addled shots or you get COVID or go crashing headfirst into the surf and bend your neck on a sea turtle. You’re unfamiliar with the local hospitals but stoked to see an ambulance and a medical professional, in whatever form it may arrive.

It’s this last situation that our government wants you to be extra careful about.

Apparently, there’s a hospital down there you’re hopefully not already familiar with. It’s called St. Luke’s and the U.S. government is warning the 100,000 U.S. tourists who go down there every month to try and get their injured asses to a different hospital should they find themselves hurt.

According to the L.A. Times, the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana issued an alert to North American tourists last week urging them to steer clear of the hospital. The alert stems from the filed complaints of numerous U.S. visitors to Cabo San Lucas who say they were pressured by St. Luke’s to pay “tens of thousands of dollars in advance payments,” while their relatives were threatened and their health reports, and sometimes even their passports, were withheld until payments were made.

Accusations of ordering unnecessary procedures and refusing to itemize charges are also being levied at St. Luke’s. In addition, the consulate warns that “hotels and resorts in the Los Cabos area may have existing contracts or informal relationships with St. Luke’s,” indicating that ambulance operators and hotel staff could be on the hospital’s payroll, funneling patients there in cases of emergency. These accusations of supporting “ambulance chasers” appear to have originated with claims on local gringo forums stretching back at least six years.

If you wonder how, in your most vulnerable moments, you’re supposed to stay away from St. Luke’s, one a travel agent wrote, “My Cabo friends told me that as long as I could talk to keep screaming, DO NOT TAKE ME TO St. Luke’s!!!”

In a particularly sad story about St. Luke's, a formal complaint by an L.A. tourist back in August explains how his wife came down with COVID in Cabo, experiencing acute respiratory failure and pneumonia.

Over his wife’s 12-day stay in St. Luke’s, the man claims he was frequently confronted by aggressive St. Luke’s administrators, demanding immediate payment of $50,000 to keep her there. He claims the hospital director himself, said, “If I ever hear about you recording conversations with your phone, you will never see your wife again.”

After putting $10,000 on a credit card, he says he was financially tapped out. But eventually, he paid $25,000 to fly his wife to Arizona where she passed away. St. Luke’s has billed his insurance company $1,000,000 but never sent an itemized bill explaining how they got that figure.

So should you find yourself ailing in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, take a minute to stop your crying, get your head together, and pray you'll get lucky locating the list of alternate Los Cabos hospitals on this government website in time.

Otherwise, you just might find yourself paying the same extortionary charges for medical services you do back at home.

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