Mexican officials warned Tuesday that the country is about to experience a major surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, as health professionals worried about overwhelmed hospitals, a prospective shortfall of doctors, and a lack of medical equipment.
“We are prepared to confront the most difficult moment,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters in an attempt to reassure the public. “We have the [hospital] beds, we have the equipment, we have the doctors.”
But others have questioned whether a long-neglected public healthcare system is ready for a rapid rise in demand.
“I don’t trust the capacity of the hospitals,” said Alejandro Macias, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Guanajuato who served as the national flu commissioner during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which originated in Mexico. “We’re not going to have enough intensive care beds. We have a fraction of what we need.”
Mexico has 1.4 hospital beds for every 1,000 citizens, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States has twice as many.
The Social Security system, the major health provider for much of Mexico, is undergoing “terrible stress,” said its director, Zoé Robledo Aburto.
For years, he noted, the massive public medical bureaucracy has suffered from a lack of investment and an institutional failure to recruit doctors, purchase equipment, and add beds and treatment sites.
“But we have to rise above this situation,” he said.
The crisis is expected to be most severe in the densely populated Mexico City metropolitan area that is home to more than 20 million people.
As of Tuesday, the area accounted for about 42% of the nation’s 8,772 confirmed cases and 35% of the 712 deaths.
Top health officials said that large numbers of infections have gone undetected because of a lack of testing and that the true total could top 70,000.
Hospitals and clinics in and around the capital have been nearing capacity. The military has been enlisted to provide additional beds if needed.
The Mazatlan Post