Frontline medical professionals at three hospitals have protested a shortage of supplies for treating patients infected with Covid-19.
Around 100 doctors, nurses, orderlies and custodians at a Social Security Institute (IMSS) hospital in Texcoco, México state, blocked a highway on Wednesday to demand they be properly equipped to face the pandemic.
Nurses complained of being forced to treat up to 20 patients at a time, a task which, combined with the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), has led to at least five cases and one death from the disease among their colleagues, they said.
As many as 45 doctors and nurses at a community hospital in San Jacinto Tlacotepec, Oaxaca, have been on strike for almost the entirety of the quarantine period. The hospital serves a region of about 30,000 people.
Residents blocked roads and closed the local offices of the state Health Ministry on Wednesday to protest the situation.
The hospital employees said they will return to work once health authorities provide them with the basic medications and equipment they need to carry out their work safely, said union leader Mario Félix Pacheco.
A municipal councilor said local governments sent a letter to President López Obrador explaining that the indigenous communities suffer from severe shortages of medical supplies.
“We view with rage and indignation the lack of feeling for the unionized personnel that work at the hospital, … as they’ve gone on strike for weeks …” he said.
In addition to basic medications and PPE, the striking staff have demanded that the hospital hire pediatricians, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist.
In Mexico City, about 30 health workers at the La Raza Hospital for Infectious Diseases obtained results after they blocked a highway this week to protest a shortage of protective equipment. IMSS delivered 1,000 N95 face masks to the medical center on Wednesday and said another 500 masks were on their way.
Hospital administrator Efraín Arizmendi Uribe said the entire facility will be regularly sanitized beginning on Wednesday and promised that PPE and medications will remain permanently stocked through the duration of the pandemic.
He also ordered the immediate disbursement of recently arrived coveralls and face shields to the hospital employees that need them, and said he will conduct a tour of the facility in the coming days to hear the petitions and suggestions of his staff.
Health workers have protested shortages of PPE and other supplies since the beginning of the pandemic, demanding the tools they need not only to save patients’ lives, but also to protect their own.
“We don’t want another colleague to become infected,” said the nurses protesting in Texcoco.