Amid a health crisis in Mexico, sparked by COVID-19, healthcare workers are risking their lives to treat patients infected with the virus. Until now, at least four doctors have died after contracting coronavirus.
However, fake news and ignorance are creating a hostile environment for health workers, who are now discriminated, threatened, and attacked.
Days ago, people from Axochiapan, Morales, protested outside a public hospital to warn health authorities that they will not allow COVID-19 patients to be sent to that hospital and threatened to burn the hospital.
Around 150 inhabitants from the small town protested outside the facilities and said they don’t want the hospital to treat COVID-19 patients and argue that the local hospital doesn’t even have the capacity to treat local patients.
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They also threatened to burn the hospital director. A local suggested they produce Molotov cocktails and use them to threaten healthcare workers.
In northern Mexico, the situation has escalated to concrete actions. In Culiacán, Sinaloa, nurses have been verbally and physically attacked amid the health emergency, for example, a stranger threw bleach at a nurse.
Nurses and all other health workers go through special sanitization processes, therefore, the fear of them spreading the virus is illogical.
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Healthcare workers are now considering not wearing their uniforms on their way to and back from work.
In Guadalajara, at least six nurses have been attacked or discriminated against because people think they will contract COVID-19 if they come near the healthcare workers. Nurses are now asking authorities to intervene.
So far, nurses have been denied public transport services or aggressions. For example, a nurse was attacked with bleach by a stranger.
On April 6, the Sabinas Hidalgo hospital, located in Nuevo León, was set on fire and suffered several damages after unknown men sprayed it with flammable liquids, days after it was announced that it would be used to treat COVID-19 patients and that it will be operated by the Mexican army once its construction is completed.
The local Attorney General’s Office is investigating the incident and will take legal action if it is proven the fire was started intentionally.
Sabinas Hidalgo inhabitants condemned the attack and attributed it to ignorance and selfishness.
The hospital, which is still under construction will have over 60 semi-private rooms, intensive care rooms for adults and children, a shock trauma department, two operating rooms, and 20 offices.
So far, nurses and doctors treating COVID-19 patients have been threatened and attacked in recent days.
During a news conference, IMSS official Víctor Hugo Borja Aburto asked people to stop discrimination, and these attacks and emphasized that the health of people depends on healthcare workers.
On April 8, it was reported that a nurse in Mérida was attacked by an unknown man, who poured boiling hot coffee on her while he screamed: “you’re going to infect us all!” when she was leaving a grocery store.
The nurse’s daughter vented her frustration on social media. She explains her mother is emotionally exhausted and tired of being humiliated.
On April 9, an IMSS trainee doctor was attacked while shopping in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. A woman sprayed him with bleach and accused him of spreading COVID-19.
The trainee doctor said he was surprised the woman accused healthcare workers from infecting the city with coronavirus. He also said he is saddened by and embarrassed by the situation.
The health worker said he can no longer wear his uniform outside work because he is afraid of being sprayed with acid.
On April 15, it was reported that in Culiacán, the home of a healthcare worker was vandalized by unknown people who threw rocks and bricks at the property.
According to local police, the woman called the authorities after her home was vandalized. According to reports, there were no damages.
In an interview, Governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel condemned the attacks against health workers, who are on the frontlines amid the battle against COVID-19. Moreover, he said authorities are investigating all the attacks against healthcare workers and will deliver justice.
On April 16, a trainee nurse was attacked in Guadalajara. According to the nurse, an unknown man threw hot coffee on his face because he was afraid he could infect him with COVID-19.
The attack took place inside public transport; however, a woman tried to defend the students and the bus driver asked the aggressor to leave.
In the Los Reyes municipality, in Michoacán, a group of IMSS workers threatened to burn patients infected with COVID-19.
In a video shared on social media, one of the workers can be heard saying the workers will burn the patients alive and said the local clinic will not treat people infected with coronavirus.
According to sources, the workers heard false information from local media when the outlet wrongly claimed the clinic would be used to treat COVID-19 patients; however, IMSS authorities said the facility will welcome patients infected with the virus but will not turn into a COVID-19 hospital.
On April 21, another nurse was attacked in Mérdia, Yucatán. According to the healthcare worker, a woman approached him while she drove her car, threw a soda at him, and yelled that he was spreading COVID-19 and insulted him several times.
This is the third health worker who reports an attack amid the public health crisis.
According to the nurse, several colleagues have been attacked.
On April 25, another attack against a healthcare worker took place in Mérida. According to a nurse, he was attacked in broad daylight.
The health workes explained how a man riding a motorcycle threw a bag full of garbage at him while was waiting to board public transport. The attacker told the nurse to “leave his neighborhood”
At least five healthcare workers have been attacked in Mérida during the pandemic.
On May 12, two men attacked a paramedic who works for the Red Cross and doused him with bleach while the volunteer provided face masks to the inhabitants of Tlapa, Guerrero.
During the attack, the men accused the paramedic of spreading COVID-19. After the attack, the paramedic filed a lawsuit against the two aggressors.
Several healthcare workers have been physically attacked or refused public transport services in Guerrero.
On May 27, it was reported that a nurse’s vehicle and home were set on fire in Mérida, Yucatán.
According to reports, the nurse’s neighbors set her vehicle on fire but were recorded, which will help the healthcare worker to take legal action against the criminals.
The attack also resulted in damages at her home.
The local Attorney General’s Office announced it will take legal action if the nurse files a lawsuit.
The latest attack against a health worker takes place after state authorities issued a new law earlier in May. It established that those who verbally or physically attack a healthcare worker could face up to 5 years in prison or be fined.
On June 11, a group of people caused damages and set fire to a clinic in Villa de las Rosas, Chiapas, after a farmed died of COVID-19.
The family was upset because doctors told them not to hold a funeral and immediately bury the farmer.
Before they destroyed the clinic, inhabitants stopped by the local town hall and the Civil Protection office to set both buildings on fire.
According to reports, they were upset because local authorities were fumigating the town and the locals thought this would make them sick.
On June 12, a nurse who treats cancer patients was the victim of harassment in Mérida, Yucatán.
When she arrived at her home, there were two messages in her door, which read “infected out (sic), you’re being watched” and “You’re the first on the list, death to IMSS (workers).”
The woman’s daughter reported the threats to authorities and the family hopes those responsible are punished.
On June 16, a 23-year-old nurse reported her neighbors attacked her outside her home in Mexico City. She said the attacks started in May.
The healthcare worker’s neighbors have verbally assaulted, spitted, pushed her. During the latest incident, a neighbor doused her with bleach.
On June 27, two indigenous communities have attacked at least four clinics in Chiapas as they refuse to believe COVID-19 is real.
The indigenous people also wreaked havoc in government offices and at the Mayor’s home and the Governor’s mother’s home.
Protesters also blñocked roads and looted stores.
On July 1, a nurse was assaulted in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, by a man who accused him of spreading COVID-19.