Health workers in at least 15 states are threatening to go on strike if the director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) does not provide healthcare workers with proper personal protective equipment.
Armando Rosales Torres, a neurosurgeon in Zacatecas and leader of the IMSS employees union, says the strike warning is no bluff.
“It is not politics, it has nothing to do with politics, nor with unions, this is a legitimate demand by IMSS workers,” Rosales said.
And if a strike doesn’t get health workers what they need, the IMSS union is also contemplating legal action.
“We are going to proceed criminally against [director] Zoé Robledo because of the enormous number of doctors and nurses in the country who are getting coronavirus due to the lack of equipment to protect them while doing their work,” Rosales said.
The union leader said he has been in talks with colleagues throughout the country since last Monday and is giving Robledo a week to respond to the union’s demands.
If equipment the government says it has ordered from overseas — including shipments from China — has indeed arrived in Mexico, Rosales wants to see it.
“The situation inside IMSS hospitals is still very precarious and the risks of contagion for doctors, nurses, workers, and even patients continue to be high due to their exposure to those infected with coronavirus,” Rosales said.
Rosales has been openly critical of inadequate supplies, lack of pandemic protocol, and poor leadership on the part of the health service for weeks, posting videos to social media where he denounced the system, pointing out that staff at his hospital was given one protective mask they were told to make last for 15 days.
As an example of the lack of effective leadership in establishing protocols, Rosales cited a patient at the state’s main hospital who tested positive for coronavirus and died two days after being admitted.
He was treated in the hospital’s general ward and never isolated. Shortly after, a patient apparently suffering from pneumonia was placed in the same bed.
If the government doesn’t take the lives of health workers seriously, there could be potentially deadly consequences.
“If in a week they do not resolve the situation,” Rosales reiterated, “we are going to go on a national strike because we cannot continue like this, especially now as we enter phase three of the virus.”
Mexico has 5,847 reported cases of coronavirus and has recorded 449 deaths.