‘We Need More Protection:’ Violence in Rural Mexico Ensnares Doctors


“They forget about a patient’s primary right, which is to be cared for wherever they are, and it’s because of this that we needed to resort to contracting foreigners,” Dr. Jorge Alcocer Varela, Mexico’s secretary of health, told reporters at a recent news conference.

The announcement about the Cuban doctors provoked outrage among many Mexican doctors, who said the problem was not a lack of physicians or an unwillingness to work in rural communities, but the life-threatening conditions they must work under.

“That was an ideological and political decision,” Dr. Germán Fajardo Dolci, director of the medical faculty at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said of the move to recruit Cuban doctors. “It is not a technical, scientific nor rational decision, from the perspective of managing a health care system.”

Dr. Fajardo Dolci said personal safety is the top worry of many doctors. “It is a huge concern across the entire profession,” he said.

Last July, a doctor was hacked to death with a machete outside his home in the state of Puebla, according to local news reports. In January, another doctor was shot dead in the state of Chiapas during an armed robbery. And in April, gunmen shot and killed a doctor in Coahuila state while he was operating on a patient, according to local reports.

The escalating violence has also made life harder for residents, health care experts say.

In the community of Guajes de Ayala, in the mountains of Guerrero state, in western Mexico, violence drove out a nurse, leaving the health clinic with no medical staff to care for nearly 1,600 residents in the region.



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