An eviction and a bleach attack are two of the latest forms of harassment medical staff around Mexico are facing as members of the public shun them or worse for fear of contracting the coronavirus.
A young doctor in Oaxaca reported that one of his patients brought a syringe filled with bleach to an appointment, and once it was over reprimanded him for working when he “must be coronavirus-positive” and squirted his scrubs with bleach to “disinfect” him.
The doctor has been practicing in the small town of Tezoatlán de Segura y Luna in southwest Oaxaca’s Mixtec region for the past three years.
“You cannot attack those who help care for you,” he said in a letter of complaint to the state’s Ministry of Health.
Oaxaca was the first state to amend the criminal code to call for jail time for those who attack medical personnel, although some doctors and nurses are reluctant to report attacks to authorities for fear of further retaliation.
Oaxaca’s Attorney General’s Office has been asked to investigate alleged attacks on medical personnel and to punish those found responsible.
In Hermosillo, where authorities have also condemned attacks on medical personnel, nurse Iván Portillo posted on Facebook that his landlord had evicted him from his home due to fears he could spread the virus.
On Sunday, Portillo said his landlord sent him a WhatsApp message asking him to vacate his second-floor apartment in the home due to the risk of infection.
He tried to protest the decision and explained sanitary precautions taken at the hospital where he works but to no avail.
Portillo has since moved into a shelter set up for government health workers who may need to self-isolate and healthcare workers in general. The 30-bed hostel is sponsored by Sonoran families and businesses.
At least 21 medical workers in 12 states across Mexico have been attacked, said Fabiana Zepeda Arias, chief of nursing for Mexico’s Social Security Institute, at a press conference on Monday. “We can save your lives,” she pleaded. “Please help us take care of you, and for that, we need you to take care of us.”
On the plus side, musicians and dancers have serenaded health workers in various states and private citizens and businesses have shown their appreciation by providing them with meals and other support since the virus outbreak began.