According to an Amnesty International report released Wednesday, Mexico has the highest number of coronavirus deaths among health workers in the world.
MEXICO CITY (Amnesty International) – The country has so far reported 1,320 confirmed COVID-19 deaths among health workers, up from 1,077 in the United States, 649 in the United Kingdom, and 634 in Brazil, the study said.
The report may reignite debate about the extremely low number of diagnostic tests performed in Mexico, less than one per 100 population. Although Mexican authorities boast that all health workers have been tested at least once, that seems insufficient for people who have been exposed to the virus daily for several months.
Medical workers in Mexico have also held many demonstrations to demand that they are provided with adequate personal protective equipment.
Steve Cockburn, director of economic and social justice at Amnesty International said, more than 7,000 health workers have died worldwide, “a crisis of alarming dimensions.”
“Every health worker has the right to a safe job, and, shockingly, so many are paying the highest price,” he said.
Cockburn called for international cooperation to ensure that every health worker has adequate protective equipment.
According to figures released last week, 97,632 nurses, doctors, and other hospital employees in Mexico have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the pandemic began, approximately 17 percent of all cases in the country up to that point. Mexico’s health statistics are often released on Tuesdays, but no updated figures have been released this week.
Nurses have accounted for 42% of infections, doctors for 27%, and other workers such as technicians, assistants, and cleaning and maintenance personnel for 31%.
The government has ensured since March that hospital workers have all the necessary protective equipment. Still, these institutions’ employees have blocked avenues in Mexico City on several occasions to show what they claim is insufficient, inadequate, or substandard equipment.
Death statistics vary, depending on how each country classifies health workers, how deaths are confirmed, and how they are reported.
For example, the Pan American Health Organization lists 2,506 deaths from COVID-19 among healthcare workers in the Americas, including about 1,320 deaths in Mexico, but only 240 for Brazil and 660 in the United States.
Carissa F. Etienne, the agency’s director, said that the continent has “the highest number of infections among healthcare workers worldwide”.
“In the United States and Mexico – which have some of the highest numbers of infections in the world – health workers account for one in seven cases,” Etienne said. “Countries must ensure that health care workers can do their jobs safely.
That means providing them with sufficient protective equipment and providing them with adequate training ineffective infection control, Etienne added.
Mexico does not appear to have followed these recommendations. In the first weeks of the pandemic, at least two outbreaks were confirmed within hospitals, with dozens of healthcare workers becoming ill.
In April, a public hospital in Monclova’s northern city became the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak in which at least 26 medical personnel became ill, and one doctor lost his life.
According to a hospital employee, a patient was admitted to the emergency room on March 15 with severe respiratory problems. Once the doctor in the intensive care unit diagnosed a probable coronavirus infection, the emergency room staff requested personal protective equipment, which was not provided. During the week, the patient was treated in the emergency room, three shifts of medical staff were exposed to the disease. Eventually, the patient died, and soon after, several of the hospital workers became ill.
The Amnesty International report also notes that “there have been reports that hospital cleaners are particularly vulnerable to infection. Many of them are subcontracted, which means that they have less protection”.
Besides, several confirmed cases of infectious medical waste accumulate in Mexico’s hospitals or being illegally dumped elsewhere.