A EuroMed ambulance found operating illegally last year. A EuroMed ambulance found operating illegally last year.

Private ambulances tipped to emergencies

They are alerted to 911 calls where they charge illegally for their service

Private ambulances are operating illegally in Mexico City, colluding with local authorities to attend emergencies and charge for their services, the Mexico City government has learned.


Emergency response services are supposed to be provided exclusively and free of charge by the city using ambulances from the Red Cross, ERUM (the medical emergency and rescue squad) and the local health secretariat.

However, in an interview with the Milenio newspaper, C5 Command Center manager Idris Rodríguez Zapata revealed that private ambulances are obtaining “information that they shouldn’t have” and are using it to arrive at addresses where medical assistance has been sought via the 911 emergency number.

“We don’t send private ambulances that charge for services. We know that they exist and they are working illegally in the city. They hear of emergencies, respond to them and charge for their service. Emergency services can’t charge in this city, it’s prohibited.”

Rodríguez said Royal Medic and EuroMed were among organizations that operated ambulances in that way and warned that the practice was not without risk.

“We don’t know if these people are qualified, whether they have the required knowledge or if they are going to steal your belongings.”

When a 911 call for medical assistance is received, it is transferred to an emergency medical center from which the closest available ambulance is dispatched. Police are also notified.


Rodríguez ruled out that call information was being leaked from C5.

“It could be a police officer in the street, a tow-truck operator or someone from Civil Protection. We don’t know exactly how they do it but that information doesn’t come from here.”

When ambulances are detected as operating illegally, authorities consign them to impoundment lots but Rodríguez sees it as only a minor deterrent.

“They buy a new vehicle and start working with license plates from another state.”

One case to which an illegally operated private ambulance responded was that of 92-year-old Carlota in March.

A couple of months prior to the incident, Carlota required urgent medical attention for a near fatal event and on that occasion, a health secretariat ambulance attended. Her granddaughter Claudia described the paramedics as “kind, professional, patient and meticulous.”

However, the treatment provided by the private ambulance was very different.

Paramedics, who arrived at the same time as city police officers, pressured Claudia to authorize her grandmother’s transport to a hospital before they had even checked vital signs or made a preliminary diagnosis.

They mentioned the names of two doctors and said that the initial admission cost would be between 3,000 and 5,000 pesos (US $160-$267) although further costs would be incurred during the stay.

As Carlota had begun to feel better, Claudia rejected their offer to which a paramedic responded, “I’ll leave you our number in case she gets worse later . . . it’s Alpha Médica emergencies.”

Surprised, Claudia asked if they belonged to ERUM.

“No, we are a private company that supports the city government with ambulances and medical services. For this service the cost is 300 pesos.”

Claudia was left with no choice but to pay.

“Calling 911 for a medical or security emergency is to expose yourself to them making money out of your distress,” she said.

There are approximately 400 medical emergencies every day in Mexico City, to which the city government responds with 329 authorized ambulances and 44 ERUM vehicles.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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  • jdwfinger

    Business as usual in a corrupt 3rd world country

    • just try getting a free ambulance ride and medical attention in the US

      • David Nichols

        And why should anyone expect either service to be free…?

        • We have universal health care in México and article 2 of the Constitution guarantees medical attention as a human right. Ambulance service is free because it is a human right. Even foreigners will have an ambulance ride and emergency care at no cost. If you are a worker the ambulance will take you to a Social Security hospital, if you work for the federal government they will take you to the ISSTE hospital, if you work for a state to the state version of Isste. If you are not employed or are a visitor, the ambulance will take you to the red cross or local General Hospital. If you have private insurance, they will take you to a private hospital. Yes, everyone expects to have emergency attention and medical service, because it is a Human Right in Mexico. And yes I have had several free ambulance rides that I did not pay for.

          • David Nichols

            Well Glenn I guess we have different definitions of “free”…
            And, I suspect, different definitions of “prompt” and “quality health care”
            As to “free”, the 16% tax on virtually everything you buy, Glenn pretty much describes how free your health care and ambulance rides are…
            As to “prompt response times” better have a friend with a car available in a real, time critical emergency…And one of my best friends here in Manzanillo is head of the Cruz Rojo here, so don’t think I am uninformed in this matter…
            As to “quality health care” if you’ve lived in Mexico very long you are certainly aware that no Mexican who can afford private care would ever consider an IMSS hospital…They are notoriously out of the most needed medications, in many cases because the medicines are stolen by hospital workers and sold to the private doctors at a discount. Endemic corruption touches all the bases in Mexico…
            If you seriously believe that the Mexican government is dedicated to the furtherance of Human Rights I suggest you haven’t been paying attention…
            Wonderful people here in Manzanillo and a salubrious climate makes for great life, but I don’t delude myself about the shortcomings…

          • I have dual nationality, US and Mexican, I have lived in Mexico for 32 years and raised 4 children here. I am a licensed Mexican attorney with a practice in Tijuana. I am specialized in Industrial Safety and Environmental compliance – I travel all over Mexico performing audits on health and safety and environmental programs. As an attorney I have had a lot of experience with foreign companies and foreigners doing business in Mexico. Defending labor lawsuits is part of my practice. When a worker that has been abused approaches us we take the case pro bono. I have sued many foreigners that hired domestic help for their homes. Europeans are very compliant with labor law obligations and as a rule US nationals are the worst. They hire people and think they can fire them at will. They don’t pay social security, Aquinaldo or vacations. It always surprises me when a foreigner living in Mexico has nothing but negative things to say about Mexicans, the government, the health care system, etc. If things are so bad in Mexico, why are you living here?

          • David Nichols

            Your obvious need to include your CV in your reply convinces me you are indeed a lawyer, but the rest of your post fails in any meaningful way to address my comment.
            And a modicum of reading comprehension on your part would reveal to you why I live in Mexico.
            Been here since 1987, married for 20 years to a Mexican woman, with whom I have a son and a daughter—none of that makes me blind to the endemic problems of the corruption within and without the political system here…
            BTW…plenty of problems up north too.

  • K. Chris C.

    The US tyranny has similar practices, except it is hidden better. Many jurisdictions in the US tyranny have mandated monopoly ambulance service areas. The ambulance firms so “blessed” then charge hundreds of dollars to individuals, and much lower rates to insurance companies. The jurisdictions, of course, taking their cut.

    An American citizen, not US subject.

    • you can and should refuse to pay – they cannot collect from you

  • John Francis

    An in cities like Manzanillo with so many private hospitals salivating over the prospect of a seriously ill gringo with money don’t kicked back a commission by the hospital to these ambulance DRIVERS which are simply disgraceful outfits and their trampa drivers who brought along the janitor and gave him a stethascope?¿?