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The anger of the doctors – The murder of Erick in Durango encourages protests by young medicine graduates

The violence is so severe that Mexican doctors are trying to avoid being posted to dangerous states, forcing Mexico to import doctors from Cuba. The first contingent of these doctors arrived last week.

By Gerardo Castillo and Mark Stevenson

MEXICO CITY (AP).— “I studied to save lives, not to lose mine.”

The message written on banners of dozens of recent medical graduates What are they sent to distant and dangerous communities in the country to complete his formation rumbled in Mexico in various protests. The last one was this week in Mexico City, although the doctors that there will be more.

The claim of which are known as “intern doctors” It is not new. They ask, among other improvements, that the most youthslos less experienced and the lowest paid to the most dangerous places in the country.

And the requirement appears every time they kill one of their own. The day before the protest in the capital, the doctors read more than a dozen names of comrades who had died in the last two years.

Doctors demand greater security in the regions where they have to provide their services in order to qualify for their respective careers. Photo: Daniel Augusto, Cuartoscuro

The latest was Erick David Andrade, 24, a recent medical graduate, shot dead in the northern state of Durango on July 15 while treating a patient.

He was a few days away from completing the mandatory period of the so-called “social service”, a program instituted in the 1930s, mandatory for medical graduates before starting internship or residency and for which they receive a scholarship of about 150 dollars. monthly.

Four days earlier, an anesthesiologist was shot dead at her home in the neighboring state of Chihuahua, on the northern border.

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Mónica Armas, who is finishing her social service and on Wednesday demonstrated in Mexico City, complained that these are not isolated cases.

Many medical interns “suffer some kind of violence, sexual harassment, threats,” he said. “And what happens is that the authorities are not ensuring that this is going to change.”

Medical students, medical residents and medical interns demonstrated at the Monument to the Revolution and marched towards the capital's Zócalo to protest against the insecurity that persists in different regions of the country, where they have to carry out their social service.
Medical students, medical residents and medical interns demonstrated at the Monument to the Revolution and marched towards the capital’s Zócalo to protest against the insecurity that persists in different regions of the country, where they have to carry out their social service. Photo: Daniel Augusto, Cuartoscuro

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged at the beginning of the year that given the violence that exists in some places, “professionals, doctors, even if there are places, do not want to go” because “people are in danger.”

The case of Dr. Andrade is an example.

The 24-year-old attended the only clinic in Pueblo Nuevo, a small town near the tourist center of Mazatlán, dominated by the Sinaloa Cartel. Armed individuals entered the clinic, an argument ensued, and two of the men opened fire on Andrade.

It is still unknown what the reasons were. On other occasions, doctors have been killed for not being able to save a seriously injured hit man and his enraged associates pay the doctor’s bill, or when an armed group wants to kill a patient that the doctor is treating.

"Vocation should not cost us our lives"read one of the doctors' banners.
“Vocation should not cost us our lives,” read one of the doctors’ banners. Photo: Daniel Augusto, Cuartoscuro

After the killing, Durango state authorities promised to install panic buttons and security cameras in lonely clinics, and to have occasional police patrols, but doctors in the area say that is not enough.

“Over the last few years, risking life has become a common exercise for medical and nursing staff who accept, almost always out of necessity, a work space in the municipalities of the interior of the state,” said the College of Physicians of Durango. “This tragedy is one more sign that the authorities of the three government orders are still very far from guaranteeing the right to security.”

Eva Pizzolato, a member of the Mexican Association of Medical Interns in Social Service, complained on Wednesday during the protest about the problems of the current system, which benefits no one.

“All rural clinics in the country are served by at least one social service intern doctor, that is, a doctor who is not qualified, who does not have the supervision of a fully trained doctor and who does not have the supplies and implements necessary to carry it out,” he denounced.

The dangers are many and the fear is “constant,” Pizzolato said. “They come to suffer many threats from organized crime, they come to be harassed by certain people, women are in great danger because they have been victims of rape, sexual harassment, they persecute them.”

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According to Mexican medical associations, the lack of doctors in some parts of the country is actually a lack of decently paid and secure jobs. But instead of addressing the issue of violence, López Obrador has chosen to solve the problem by promoting the hiring of medical specialists from Cuba, a country with which he has splendid relations and who cannot choose their destination: they go where they are assigned because they are part of the of Havana’s foreign policy.

But bringing in Cuban doctors “is not the solution we need,” said Dr. Mónica Armas. “We need a reform of all the infrastructure we have, of the social service… of the health centers in rural areas.”

In addition, no one ensures that Caribbean doctors have more security, although, being specialists, they will foreseeably be in larger locations and not in the most remote and isolated ones.

“Unfortunately, they are also in danger, regardless of whether they are Cuban, whether they are foreigners or whether they are nationals,” said Brian González, a fourth-year medical student at the Polytechnic University of Mexico who joined the demonstration the day before.

The Secretary of Health, Dr. Jorge Alcocer, has refused to consider changes because he considers the program “an academic necessity that in principle cannot be canceled.”

“It is not opportune, it is not advisable to suspend this important training process that young doctors who are about to graduate have, but nevertheless, security conditions are being reviewed,” he said after Andrade’s murder.

However, he hinted that doctors would have to accept the risks. “We cannot…leave out the sites that are farthest away or that have conditions that are not entirely safe.”

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The young doctors insist that there are solutions but they must be addressed in a structural way because now, interns are not being cared for or quality service is being offered to patients. “It is a systematic problem that has to be solved in a more structured way and not just by sending people or almost making sacrifices,” Armas lamented.

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