Coronavirus
Dr. Grajales, arrested in Chiapas after a patient died from the coronavirus. Dr. Grajales, arrested in Chiapas after a patient died from the coronavirus.

Doctor arrested after Covid patient dies; his colleagues blame ‘deficient health system’

Chiapas hospital didn't have the necessary medicine, claim medical associations

The leaders of several medical associations have written to President López Obrador to complain that they are being blamed by authorities for deficiencies in Mexico’s health system.

The letter signed by more than 10 medical association presidents was sent after a doctor in Chiapas was arrested in connection with the death of a coronavirus patient.

The association presidents said the hospital where the detained emergency doctor worked, a facility in Tuxtla Gutiérrez run by the Chiapas government, didn’t have the medicine required to treat the deceased patient.

The arrest of Gerardo Vicente Grajales Yuca by state authorities was “violent, abusive and illegal,” the letter said, rejecting the claim by the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office that the doctor was guilty of abuse of authority.

“We’re not opposed to incorrect professional conduct [by doctors] being investigated and sanctioned … but we don’t agree with being used to shift responsibility … for a chronically deficient health system,” the medical leaders said.

They said the detained doctor had asked the deceased patient’s family to purchase a medication that wasn’t readily available in the hospital. Asking the family to purchase the medicine did not make the doctor guilty of any crime, the medical association presidents said.

Acting on a complaint by the deceased man’s daughter, Chiapas authorities nevertheless took the doctor into custody, announcing that his arrest occurred “within the framework” of the fight against corruption.

A protest to demand Grajales’s release is planned to take place in front of the National Palace in Mexico City this Friday.

In their letter to López Obrador, the medical association presidents reminded the president that they have already denounced – on numerous occasions – the lack of medications and supplies with which to treat coronavirus patients.

They said it was “paradoxical” that doctors are being blamed by authorities and the general public for shortcomings in the health system while they are fighting to save patients’ lives. They demanded a halt to the persecution and harassment against medical personnel on the front line in the battle against Covid-19.

There have been numerous reports of physical and verbal attacks on health workers since the new coronavirus was first detected in Mexico at the end of February.

Guerrero hospital director Mélida Honorato was murdered last Friday.
Guerrero hospital director Mélida Honorato was murdered last Friday.

Some medical personnel have been attacked with bleach in apparent attempts to “disinfect” them and thus stop the spread of the virus.

Now, the head of a health workers’ union in Guerrero says the murder of a hospital director in that state could also be part of the baffling backlash against medical personnel working with Covid-19 patients.

Beatriz Vélez Núñez, general secretary of section 36 of the National Health Workers Union, said the murder of Mélida Honorato Gabriel, who was the director of a hospital in the Montaña region municipality of Huamuxtitlán, could have been committed by disgruntled relatives of a deceased coronavirus patient.

She said that family members have threatened violence against health workers in Guerrero hospitals if they don’t save the lives of their sick loved ones.

Vélez called on López Obrador and Guerrero Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores to modify their discourse about doctors’ obligations when treating coronavirus patients.

“They shouldn’t always say that we have to look after them with all we’ve got because we don’t always have the medicine, material and equipment [we need],” she said. “The case of the doctor [Honorato] occurred precisely because of that situation.”

The hospital director was shot dead last Friday by two men who intercepted her vehicle while she was traveling on the Tlapa-Puebla federal highway in Guerrero.

Her colleagues at the Huamuxtitlán hospital stopped work on Saturday to demand justice and the provision of security for health workers.

Doctors, nurses and administrative staff said in a statement that they would only attend to urgent cases until authorities provided them with a safety guarantee.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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