President López Obrador apologized to doctors on Monday after more than 30 medical associations demanded a public apology for comments he made during a May 8 press briefing in which he said that doctors only sought to enrich themselves during Mexico’s “neoliberal” era.
The Mexican College of Critical Medicine expressed “total rejection” of the comments which “slander and offend the entire medical community.”
The Mexican Urology Society also denounced the president’s statements, noting that during the coronavirus pandemic, many medical personnel have put their safety on the line in order to serve the Mexican people despite “profound deficiencies in hospital supplies.”
Similarly, the Association of Otorhinolaryngology also requested a public apology by the president, calling the comments “offensive and derogatory.”
“It is unfair that the president disqualifies our work and assumes that our only interest was monetary,” said Dr. Alejandro Macías, member of the Coronavirus Emergency Commission at the National Autonomous University.
Meanwhile, the Mexican Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology Colleges considered it unfair, inopportune and inaccurate for the president to speak of “medical commercialism during the neoliberal period,” and asked him to apologize to the doctors and nurses who are “fighting for the health and well-being of all Mexicans.”
On Monday, the president apologized during Monday’s press briefing but said his words were misinterpreted. “If they understood it that way, I apologize, but it was not that,” he said, explaining that he was not referring to all doctors, just a select few who were motivated by greed.
His political foes misrepresented his comments, López Obrador said. “They are looking at me under a microscope, they scrutinize everything, but I did not say that.”
The president was speaking highly of Health Minister Jorge Carlos Alcocer and Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell when he made Friday’s comments about doctors in the years leading up to his taking office in 2018.
He said the two are not in support of “commercialism which unfortunately came to predominate during the neoliberal period in everything related to health; as they used to say before about doctors, they only sought to enrich themselves, right?”
He related a hypothetical doctor and patient conversation in which the doctor wanted to know what assets the patient had before proceeding. “That isn’t Dr. Alcocer or Dr. Hugo López-Gatell,” López Obrador said.
A recent study found that doctors in Mexico are not well paid. A 2019 physician compensation report at the website Medscape revealed that, on average, Mexican doctors earn around 16,146 pesos (US $670) per month, about one-third of what doctors make in countries such as Brazil and Italy. Doctors in the United States make 14 times the salary of their Mexican colleagues.