More than 100 nurses who were hired in Zacatecas last year to treat patients during the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic were unceremoniously dismissed via the WhatsApp messaging service last week.
“Yesterday we were heroes, today we’re unemployed,” said Eladio Sandoval Flores, one of the temporary nurses who was hired in the first half of last year and cared for Covid patients during the first and second waves of the pandemic.
He is one of more than 30 relief nurses at the Zacatecas Women’s Hospital who is now without a job. The other nurses dismissed last week worked at general hospitals in the municipalities of Fresnillo, Jerez, Loreto and Jalpa. All were paid just 180 pesos (about US $9) for each eight-to-12-hour shift and received no benefits.
David Villagrana told the newspaper Milenio that he and other relief nurses at the women’s hospital, located near the state capital, worked during the “ugliest and most intense” periods of the pandemic but their service didn’t even earn them the right to be told about the termination of their employment face to face.
He said that one of his colleagues received a WhatsApp message from her boss last Monday and that she was told to tell all the other relief nurses not to go into work the next day.
Enrique López, a relief nurse at the Loreto General Hospital, recounted a similar story.
“The truth is, it’s very unfair that they dismiss us in this way. … We were on the frontline; we worked during the peak of the pandemic … but we’re discarded from one day to the next; it’s not fair at all,” he told Milenio.
“We know that we’re temporary nurses, but we were also the ones who took up the fight to attend [to patients during] the most critical stage of the pandemic; we put our lives on the line but were notified with a simple WhatsApp message that we’re fired,” Sandoval told the newspaper El Universal during a protest outside the Zacatecas Women’s Hospital.
The dismissed nurses called for health authorities to employ them on a permanent basis even though the pandemic, and the number of hospitalized Covid patients, has declined significantly.
“The only thing we’re asking for is that our work be respected; we’re not asking for anything that we haven’t earned with dedication, effort and love for what we do,” said López.
Frida Esparza, a Democratic Revolution Party federal deputy from Zacatecas, characterized the nurses’ dismissal as a betrayal.
“Yesterday they were considered heroes of the pandemic by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but today they’re fired,” she said.
Norma Castorena, secretary-general of Section 39 of the National Health Workers Union, called for the dismissed nurses to keep their cool and not intensify their protest in any way because authorities are looking at the possibility of extending their contracts.
Whether that occurs remains to be seen.