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How Can Mexico Encourage Professional Healthcare Education?

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 07/07/2020 - 11:08

In Mexico, healthcare professionals are overused and poorly distributed across the country. According to the most recent data of the Ministry of Health, the country has 277,287 doctors practicing, meaning that Mexico is still below the basic healthcare standards established by the OECD. In an ideal scenario, countries would have at least 3.4 doctors and nine nurses per 1,000 people.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Mexico, President López Obrador said that the country was lacking 123,000 doctors to properly address healthcare coverage. After the national recruitment of medical professionals, 6,000 doctors (438 of them belonging to a specialty) and 15,000 nurses have joined the Ministry of Health.

MBN asked Germán Fajardo, Director of the UNAM School of Health Sciences, about his views on the subject of lacking medical professionals, to which he said that more than lacking doctors, the country lacks specialists. “In Mexico, 18,000 doctors graduate each year. Almost all of them look forward to entering a specialty by completing the National Exam of Candidates to Medical Residences (ENARM). Mexico has a large number of general doctors; passing the ENARM test and then finding a job is the challenge.” Fajardo explained that still, having enough medical professionals would not solve the problem of healthcare coverage because correct infrastructure and equipment is need, which is almost nonexistent in rural areas of the country.

“Doctors need to be incentivized with opportunities to work and specialize. There are two things that could be done about this. One is to send medical students to those remote areas of the country before their residency to learn and provide healthcare. Second, doctors who do not pass ENARM should be allowed to spend a couple of years in a community and after that, they should enter their residency,” said Fajardo.

On the same subject, MBN also asked Dean of the TecSalud School of Medicine and Health Sciences Jorge Eugenio Valdez what could be done to solve the lack of healthcare professionals. “Economic incentives do help to make this process easier. Right now, one of the biggest obstacles for doctors to work in rural areas is the lack of proper infrastructure to provide primary care. Doctors need to have the basic tools to provide dignified care, including equipment, facilities and communication channels to give and receive a consultation. Economic remuneration should also be enough to allow health professionals to have a good quality of life and the possibility to start a family,” said Valdez.

While both opinions are aligned, MBN asked Mexican companies that develop their own technology for healthcare what they think about this. Proper equipment and infrastructure were mentioned, which involves other professionals on the subject. Juan Dovarganes, CEO of Mexican engineering company Arroba Ingeniería, said that Mexico could exploit its developing capabilities. “Mexico has all the capabilities to expand its presence but technology development is not there, yet. In fact, it is almost nonexistent. The country incentivizes science albeit at a low rate, but it does not foster technological development because this means supporting the whole production chain of a final product, which involves greater investment.”

Founder and CEO of Mexican bioengineering company TINC Luis Fernández said that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only evidenced Mexico’s lack of medical professionals but also the country’s dependency on foreign technology. “We need to motivate our entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs with monetary resources destined for medical technology research, as well as to facilitate the safety assessment process for newly developed technologies. There are many students in Mexico that have developed great projects during their studies and unfortunately, many of them end up on shelves as trophies,” said Fernández.

Some current examples to address entrepreneurship and lack of healthcare professionals are UNAM’s current efforts on their educational plan. “UNAM has an entrepreneurial area that encourages students and professors to take on healthcare projects by analyzing them and later seeking a private association to collaborate with and fully develop the project. One of the most important projects we have right now is focused on diabetic retinopathy. The school is developing and enhancing these types of projects alongside various ophthalmological associations,” said Fajardo.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst