The murder of a young doctor in Mexico has prompted recent medical school graduates to demand changes to a system that often allows them to travel remotely during the first year of their careers as part of the country’s medical training system. Leaves exposed to danger in checkpoints.
Dozens of medical school graduates in white coats protest in Mexico City on WednesdayHe has to face his allies.
On July 15, 24-year-old Eric David Andrade was shot and killed in the northern state of Durango as he was treating a patient. He was far from completing a mandatory period of barely paid “social service” for Mexican med school graduates before starting an internship or residency.
“I graduate from a medical school. Why are you going to kill me?” Read a sign held by one of the marchers. “A dead doctor can’t save a life,” read another.
Mexico has long had problems attracting medical workers to far-flung areas and rising mass violence has made it worse – for established as well as early doctors. On July 11, an anesthesiologist for a rural government hospital was shot and killed at his home in the neighboring state of Chihuahua.
In July 2021, a doctor was killed on a highway near Jerez, Zacatecas, after she failed to stop at a drug gang checkpoint. That same month two paramedics were killed while transporting a patient in the violence-stricken northern state.
President Andres Manuel López Obrador has cited a reluctance to serve in such regions as a justification for importing doctors from Cuba, the first of which arrived last week.
“Violence gets worse and there are areas where people are at risk,” he said earlier this year. “Professionals, doctors, don’t want to go there, even if jobs are open.”
Monica Armas, a recent med school graduate finishing her social service—a program founded in the 1930s that pays young doctors a stipend of about $150 per month—was one of those demonstrating in Mexico City .
Cubans “are not the solution we need,” she said. “We need to improve the whole infrastructure, social service, the whole infrastructure in rural health centres.”
Andrade was working in a lonely clinic in Pueblo Nuevo, a small town near the Sinaloa resort of Mazatlán in an area dominated by the Sinaloa cartel. Armed men broke into the clinic, an argument ensued, and two men opened fire on Andrade, killing him.
The motive was unclear, although in other cases doctors were attacked by gunmen, outraged that the doctors were unable to save injured gangsters or were killed with intent to kill a patient they were treating.
Durango state officials later promised to install emergency call buttons and security cameras at the secluded clinic and to conduct occasional police patrols, but doctors in the area say this is clearly not enough.
The Durango Medical Association said, “Over the years, it has become a regular occurrence for doctors and nursing staff to risk their lives when they accept a job in one of the out-of-state cities.” “
Eva Pizzolatto, a member of the Mexican Association of Medical Graduates in Social Service, said the current system is not helping new doctors or their patients.
“All rural clinics in the country have at least one recent graduate doctor doing social service, a doctor who does not yet have a degree, who does not have the supervision of a fully trained doctor, and does not have the equipment and Supplies need to provide care,” Pizzolatto said.
New doctors “face threats from organized crime,” Pizzolatto said, and “there is a constant fear that doctors may be harmed by threats from within the communities” they serve.
Mexican medical associations have complained that bringing in Cuban doctors faces the problem of secure, decently paid jobs in rural areas.
Brian Gonzalez, a fourth-year medical student at the Polytechnical University of Mexico, who participated in the demonstration, said Cuban doctors are “unfortunately also in danger. It doesn’t matter if they are foreigners, Cubans or Mexicans.”
Health Secretary Jorge Alcosar has declined to consider the changes.
“This is an academic requirement that, in principle, cannot be revoked,” Alcosar said days after Andrade’s assassination. “It is not fair, it is not appropriate to postpone such an important training process for young doctors at the time of graduation, but the safety conditions may be reviewed.”
He implied that the doctors would simply have to bear the risk.
“We cannot, whether it is with doctors or specialists, leave areas without staff …
Armas urged deep change.
“This is a structural problem that demands a structural solution – not sending medical school graduates as sacrificial lambs,” she said. “Graduates suffer from a lack of protection, and the people they serve are not getting quality care.”