Mexico’s coronavirus fight has just begun. Doctors say they’re already running out of masks


Worshipers attend Mass on the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara in Mexico on March 15, 2020. (Ulises Ruiz / AFP/Getty Images )

As the novel coronavirus spreads in Mexico, medical doctors and nurses at public hospitals have begun protesting a scarcity of personnel and primary provides corresponding to masks and gloves.

Medical employees held strikes and walkouts throughout the nation this week, warning {that a} lack of assets will increase the chance for them and their households in addition to for sufferers.

“We can’t work without equipment,” implored a nurse in Tabasco state in a broadly considered video on Twitter. “We also have families — children and parents.”

The federal authorities says that $150 million in extra medical provides is on the way in which and that it’s speeding to fill roughly 42,000 job openings for medical doctors, nurses and different medical professionals that predate the coronavirus disaster.

“We invite health personnel … to heed the call and commit to the future of this country, to being a person who helps face the epidemic,” Deputy Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell mentioned Tuesday.

But throughout the medical group there have been rising issues that the federal government has moved too slowly, leaving Mexico’s public healthcare system unprepared to fight a significant outbreak of the illness.

One physician who screens dozens of individuals a day for COVID-19 at a public hospital in impoverished, populous Mexico state, which incorporates Mexico City, mentioned she is allotted just two disposable masks for every 12-hour shift. Ideally she would placed on a brand new masks for every affected person.

“We feel unprotected,” mentioned the physician, who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of she was not licensed to provide interviews.

Even earlier than COVID-19 arrived in Mexico, which has seen greater than 400 confirmed instances and 5 deaths, the nation’s healthcare system was strained.

Lengthy wait occasions for procedures are widespread on the nation’s huge community of public hospitals and clinics, the place most Mexicans obtain care. Often, medical doctors and nurses have been compelled to ask sufferers to purchase them surgical masks, robes and different primary provides.

By many accounts, issues have gotten worse since President Andres Manuel López Obrador took workplace in December 2018 and launched into a program of deep cuts in authorities spending.

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The leftist populist — who ran on an anti-corruption platform — has canceled contracts with drug firms, which he alleged have been working with a crooked community of hospital directors.

That could have been true. But López Obrador’s dramatic modifications have led to shortages of life-saving medication. Two of the teams hardest hit by the shortages are kids with most cancers and sufferers with HIV.

Last 12 months, the top of Mexico’s Social Security Institute stepped down and issued an uncommon public resignation letter declaring that “extreme financial savings and controls in health spending are inhumane.”

López Obrador’s response to COVID-19 has generated a brand new wave of criticism.

Compared with different international locations within the area, Mexico has been gradual to implement preventative measures to cease the unfold of the illness.

Mexico had its first confirmed COVID-19 case in late February, but it wasn’t till this week that it ordered faculties to shut and really useful that companies let workers keep dwelling.

The jacaranda-dotted streets of Mexico City are emptier than regular, however many eating places, companies and gymnasiums stay open.

To the chagrin of his critics, López Obrador has repeatedly contradicted the recommendation of his personal health authorities. In a video message Sunday, he sat at a desk close to a supporter in Oaxaca and implored Mexicans to keep up the traditional rhythm of their lives.

“Don’t stop going out,” he mentioned.

The Mexican authorities has held off on implementing extra drastic measures as a result of it’s deeply apprehensive about its struggling financial system. The peso has fallen dramatically in current weeks, this week hitting a brand new document of 25 pesos to the greenback, and costs for primary items are rising. At a market on Mexico City’s south facet, the worth of a pound of hen rose by 25 cents in every week, a significant jolt in a rustic the place the minimal wage is about $5 a day.

On Tuesday, Lopez Obrador implored enterprise leaders to not lay off workers and mentioned his authorities would grant loans to some small companies to assist them keep afloat.

He didn’t straight tackle calls for for extra medical personnel and provides, although he mentioned Mexico was ready for an onslaught of COVID-19 instances.

On Twitter, political analyst Denise Dresser mentioned Mexicans deserve extra particulars about these preparations.

“What we wanted to hear: We need to equip hospitals, manufacture ventilators, sew face masks, train doctors and nurses and ask for help from industries and laboratories and factories so they can focus on producing what is urgent and necessary,” she wrote.

Of rising concern is the quantity of COVID-19 exams accessible in Mexico. Authorities have given a spread of figures, from about 9,000 to 35,000. The authorities has performed fewer than 3,000 exams, primarily in individuals who not too long ago traveled to areas with vital numbers of infections.

The World Health Organization has really useful that every one suspected instances be examined.

Even at non-public hospitals, the place exams are extra available, sufferers have reported lengthy lag occasions in getting outcomes.

Ariana Sawyer, a human rights employee who not too long ago traveled to France and California, mentioned she was examined for the illness at a non-public hospital in Mexico City on March 15 after falling sick. Nine days later, she nonetheless hadn’t acquired outcomes, although medical doctors mentioned it was “probable” that she was contaminated and ordered her to self-quarantine at dwelling.

She mentioned she is apprehensive concerning the illness spreading to poorer communities in Mexico or migrant camps alongside the U.S. border, the place there are unhygienic circumstances “and people don’t have access to social distancing.”

“It’s going to be devastating for them,” she mentioned.

Cecilia Sanchez in The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

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