Price-Gouging Accusations Prompt Rare Consulate Warning for Cabo San Lucas Hospital

The U.S. government issued a warning Wednesday telling American tourists visiting Mexico to avoid receiving medical care at a specific hospital after it received numerous complaints about inflated prices and bad medical practices.

The U.S. consulate in Tijuana issued the rare "health alert" for American citizens, warning them about St. Luke's Hospital in Cabo San Lucas, a town popular as a tourist destination.

"U.S. citizens have reported instances of withholding care for payment, failing to provide itemized lists of charges, ordering unnecessary procedures, withholding  U.S. passports, obstructing medical evacuations, and refusing to discharge patients without payment," the consulate said in its statement.

The Associated Press reported U.S. citizens filed multiple complaints saying the hospital demanded tens of thousands of dollars in upfront payments and threatened patients' family members. Complaints also said the hospital refused to release medical reports containing the actual care patients received.

Newsweek contacted the hospital for a comment, but it did not immediately respond. The AP said the facility refused to comment when it was contacted by email and phone on Thursday.

The AP reported that one of the complaints came from Scott Lairson, who was staying in Cabo San Lucas on vacation with his wife, Patricia Lairson, in June when she needed medical care.

Patricia Lairson was rushed to St. Luke's and was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure and pneumonia due to COVID-19. The AP said she suffered from serious breathing problems and was hospitalized for 12 days at the facility.

According to Scott Lairson, the hospital administrators were aggressive and threatened to transfer his wife to another local hospital and to bar him from visiting her if he didn't pay $50,000 immediately, the AP reported.

"I want that deposit today, you go outside and call your family, whoever you need to call or don't come back to this hospital," Mario Trejo Becerrill, the hospital's director, allegedly told Scott Lairson, according to his complaint referenced in the AP report. "And if I ever hear about you recording conversations with your phone, you will never see your wife again!"

Scott ended up putting $10,000 on his credit card and paid $25,000 to have his wife flown to Arizona, where she ultimately died. St. Luke's Hospital billed United Healthcare insurance for $1 million but never provided the medical records for the billing, the AP added.

According to the local English-language newspaper Gringo Gazette, three hospitals in Los Cabos have been suspended after several years of complaints about patients being charged "outrageous prices."

The Gazette said the hospital names were not released, and the suspension doesn't mean they must stop providing services altogether. The hospitals are limited to what services they can provide, and they now need to reach an agreement with authorities.

The U.S. consulate warned that some hotels and resorts in Los Cabos may have contracts or informal relationships with St. Luke's. It added that, if medical treatment is needed in the region, a list of other hospitals is available on the consulate website.

U.S. Government Warns Americans About Hospital
The U.S. government warned Americans on January 26 to avoid a hospital in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, following years of complaints that the facility has preyed on Americans by overcharging, bullying them and refusing to release medical records. Above, tourists walk on the beach in Cabo San Lucas on September 2, 2009. Guillermo Arias/AP Photo