Coronavirus
Medical personnel protest in Mexico City on Tuesday. Medical personnel protest in Mexico City on Tuesday.

Health care workers across Mexico protest shortages of supplies, staff

From Mexico City to Yucatán, doctors and nurses are demanding face masks, gowns and gloves

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Public health care workers are continuing to protest a lack of equipment and supplies to treat patients with Covid-19.

Workers at the Mexican Social Security Institute’s (IMSS) La Raza National Medical Center in Mexico City protested on Friday to demand personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gowns and gloves as well as medications and medical supplies. The workers, who also protested last Friday, began blocking three of the four lanes of a busy road outside the hospital just before noon.

One nurse told the newspaper Reforma that the health care personnel at the IMSS facility have to purchase their own masks to protect themselves while working.

One male nurse who was taking care of patients with Covid-19 caught the disease himself and is now in the hospital, the workers said. They also said that the hospital needs more staff in order to guarantee care during the growing coronavirus outbreak.

In addition, the workers are calling for bonus pay due to the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 in their jobs.

A protest by interns in Michoacán.
A protest by interns in Michoacán.

Health care workers in other parts of the country have also protested a lack of PPE and supplies this week.

IMSS and State Workers’ Social Security Institute medical personnel in Yucatán protested in the state capital Mérida Thursday and Friday to demand items including face masks and gowns. IMSS health care workers in the Yucatán municipality of Umán also stopped work this week to protest a lack of equipment and supplies, the news website Noticaribe reported.

IMSS workers at the No. 2 clinic in Saltillo, Coahuila, also protested due to a lack of N95 surgical masks, while 400 medical interns in Michoacán stopped work, claiming they don’t have sufficient PPE to work safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

IMSS doctors and nurses also protested on Friday in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, and Cuernavaca, Morelos.

Workers in the former city said that they are “completely exposed” to Covid-19 because they don’t have sufficient personal protective equipment. They also said that there is insufficient space in the medical facilities in which they work to isolate patients with Covid-19.

“We’re not refusing to work, we’re not afraid of treating the patients but the truth is that there is a serious risk if we don’t have adequate protection,” one Ciudad Victoria doctor told the news website La Silla Rota.

IMSS workers in Cuernavaca who protested by blocking a road that connects with the Mexico City-Acapulco highway echoed the sentiment.

“All we’re asking for is that they give us the necessary supplies, N95 masks and gowns,” said one nurse.

The protests by IMSS workers – there have been more than 20, according to one IMSS official – have continued despite director Zoé Robledo stating on Tuesday that medical personnel would be supplied this week with the equipment and supplies required to treat Covid-19 patients.

In a video message directed to IMSS workers, Robledo acknowledged that there have been shortages and said their claims were legitimate.

“You are the first people we have to look after in the pandemic,” he said. The IMSS director said that the institute is working with the Finance Ministry to make the required purchases.

Robledo also said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting the process to purchase equipment and supplies from China, the source of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Protesting IMSS workers in Cuernavaca.
Protesting IMSS workers in Cuernavaca.

Another medical facility that is facing the spread of Covid-19 without being well prepared to do so is the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER) in Mexico City, which has been designated as a frontline hospital for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

An INER report in April 2019 described equipment and facilities at the hospital as “obsolete” and said that significant investment is needed to bring the facility up to standard. INER also told the Health Ministry that “complex procedures” to purchase supplies and contract services needed to be urgently eliminated and that additional staff, especially nurses, were required to ensure the hospital could operate adequately in all of its different areas.

However, medical and administrative personnel at INER told the newspaper El Financiero that federal health authorities failed to respond to the requests made last year.

One man who suspected that he had been infected with coronavirus said that he was told at INER earlier this month that the hospital wasn’t testing for the disease.

The federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been both praised and criticized, and some doctors and scientists have said that Mexico could end up in a situation like Italy, where there were more than 85,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Friday and more than 9,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

Mexico added 110 new cases on Thursday and at least 11 people with Covid-19 have died.

Source: Reforma (sp), La Jornada (sp), El Universal (sp), El Financiero (sp), Noticaribe (sp), Vanguardia (sp), La Silla Rota (sp) 

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