Mexico Faces COVID-19 with Insufficient Medical TalentBy Cas Biekmann | Tue, 04/07/2020 - 14:54
Today, the International Health Organization (IHO) published a document announcing that Mexico simply does not have enough professional hospital staff per capita available in comparison to other countries. This could mean that the country’s battle against COVID-19 will soon turn complicated.
In the document, IHO calculated that Mexico has around 20 to 29 medical professionals for every 10,000 inhabitants. This is far from other countries in the region such as Brazil, Chile, Panama and Costa Rica. All of them have over 100 specialists available per 10,000 inhabitants, according to the study from 2018. Although the report does not go into details, El Universal stated that the nature of work and the working conditions are the main drivers of performance, productivity and retention of personnel in the health sector.
In the five years prior to 2018, the amount of worldwide medical personnel increased by 4.7 million. Regardless, IHO estimates that there is still a deficit of 5.9 million professionals. One problem related to retaining medical talent is low wages: around 89 percent of professionals receive low to intermediate salaries.
Mexico itself faces more intricate issues related to the availability of medical staff in the health sector. Due to a perceived lack of protection for their students, prominent universities such as UNAM and IPN decided to withdraw their students from hospitals. “In many cases, interns are handling tasks that they are not suited for, without protection or adequate training,” said Ana Elena Limón in a signed document from UNAM. The measures go into action from April 6 until April 30, when the situation will be re-evaluated.
Clinics, hospitals and medical staff are not ready for when Mexico enters Phase 3, which the Ministry of Health estimates will be within a few weeks. This is the outcome of a survey of various collectives regarding medical professionals, reported El Universal. In another survey, over 4,760 internal staff, interns and resident doctors were questioned. Of these, 69 percent confirmed to be either exposed or assigned to working with COVID-19 patients.