A health workers’ strike over a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies at a hospital in Puebla turned ugly on Tuesday with both a nurse and a cameraman coming under physical attack.
According to a report by the newspaper La Jornada, a group of workers at the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) Manuel Ávila Camacho Specialty Hospital in Puebla city stopped work late Tuesday afternoon to protest the lack of PPE and supplies, pointing out they are at risk of being infected with Covid-19.
Things began to heat up after local health union leader Sergio Herrera Vázquez arrived at the hospital to listen to the workers’ complaints.
A doctor by the name of Valera told Herrera in no uncertain terms that it was “impossible” for the health workers to keep doing their jobs if they don’t have access to essential equipment and supplies. He said that one resident doctor at the hospital and two nurses have tested positive for Covid-19 and that other workers could also be infected even though they don’t currently have any symptoms.
After Valera’s summary of the situation, a group of nurses chimed in, directing their frustration and anger at hospital managers, saying they don’t have sufficient PPE including masks and gloves to treat patients.
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The nurses claimed that some of their superiors are withholding PPE despite the constant risk of Covid-19 infection. One of them questioned why masks donated to the hospital by students at Ibero University have not been distributed to the workers.
The nurses said the 20% salary bonus announced this week for public health workers working directly with Covid-19 patients was cold comfort considering that they are unable to protect themselves adequately from infection.
After that declaration, a deputy ward manager directed a punch in the direction of one of the nurses who was filming the proceedings. However, he quickly restrained himself after the nurse told him, “you’re live on Facebook.”
Amid the commotion, hospital managers noticed the presence of a cameraman from the broadcaster Imagen Televisión and one of them launched an assault on him.
A man in a red shirt and glasses identified as “one of the IMSS bosses” unleashed a flurry of punches on the cameraman before throwing him to the ground and laying into him with his boot. Hospital security guards also participated in the attack whose apparent purpose was to seize the cameraman’s footage.
Nurses and orderlies came to his defense, ordering the aggressors to leave him alone. A female reporter was also held against her will for several minutes in an X-ray area, La Jornada reported.
Health workers across Mexico continue to protest the shortage of PPE and medical supplies as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.
In a television interview on Wednesday, IMSS director Zoé Robledo said that the concerns of medical personnel were legitimate but stressed that 80% of the institute’s hospitals have at least enough supplies to continue treating Covid-19 patients for the next week.
He said that the Ministry of Public Administration is carrying out audits of hospital supplies and ensuring that they get what they need. The government has committed to purchasing US $56.6 million worth of medical supplies from China and two planeloads of PPE and other materials have already arrived.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced last week that the government had purchased 5,272 ventilators from a range of countries to treat coronavirus patients with life-threatening symptoms. Robledo said that IMSS hospitals currently have 3,000 ventilators available for patients who require intubation.