Mexican doctors and nurses have now the responsibility of caring for those ill with coronavirus without neglecting other patients. For a year, I studied medicine at Mexico’s National University (UNAM). From that brief time, I know how difficult is to dedicate your life to saving the lives of others.
Many of Mexico’s public hospitals were overcrowded and lacked medications and supplies before the coronavirus crisis. Contrary to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s promise that Mexico would get a health system just “like in Denmark”, we now have one with even more deficiencies.
Adequate equipment must be given to Mexico’s medical personnel. In recent days, there have been several protests by medical personnel due to the lack of adequate conditions in several Mexican states including Coahuila, Estado de México, Mexico City, Tabasco, Puebla and Veracruz. Their demands must be addressed promptly. It is incredible that, with three months to prepare for the arrival of this moment, there is still a lack of basic protecting gear for health personnel.
President AMLO’s government should seek an extraordinary budget line to compensate Mexico’s medical staff for the overtime they will work. It is just not enough to ask them to “give ourselves to this noble cause of saving lives,” as AMLO said recently.
We must be very aware of the value of their time. Go to the doctor only if it is essential. In distress it is common to invent symptoms.
There are already cases of assaults in Mexico against uniformed nurses in the streets for supposedly being a source of contagion. Clear leadership and a massive media campaign in support of health personnel would help.
It is time for all of us to do our part and support those who are on the front lines. The most obvious case are health workers, but also all those who continue working: the police, the Army and those who supply us with food.
President AMLO has called for a political truce, something almost unnecessary given that there is so little political opposition. His governing coalition controls both chambers of Congress and most state governments. In any case, AMLO must take the first step and stop polarizing with celebratory phrases like this crisis “fits like a glove” to further his political program.
It is very important that AMLO acts on the recommendation of experts, including economic experts. It is up to him to decide what objectives to pursue, but he must carefully consult with others in how to reach them. Every mistake in managing this crisis will be counted in lives, unemployed people and an increase in the number of poor in Mexico.
* Carlos Elizondo Mayer-Serra is professor at the School of Government and Public Transformation at Tec de Monterrey, in Mexico City. A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition. Twitter: @carloselizondom