Mexico has a total of 6,425 intensive care unit beds with ventilators for a country of 129 million, but a relatively low number of cases. The following weeks are crucial.
The coronavirus pandemic has tested almost every health system in the world. In Mexico, the President has downplayed the threat of the virus, and some experts believe the country is acting too little too late.
Mexico is still confronting phase two of the pandemic. On April 6, the Secretary of Health confirmed 8,358 positive cases of COVID — 19 and 125 deaths. In comparison with the neighboring United States, where there are 307,318 confirmed cases and 10,908 victims, the Latin American country has relatively few positive cases, but testing is limited. According to Mexican authorities, the weeks to come will be crucial.
However, the country continues to export medical devices and even workers willing to work to the U.S. Less than a year after President Trump threatened to impose tariffs, border towns like Tijuana have ramped up production.
“There’s this incredible irony that many of the medical devices that will save lives in the United States were made in Mexico, but most Mexicans won’t have access to them,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, to The Washington Post.
On March 26, Undersecretary of Health Prevention and Promotion, Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, said Mexico will definitely move to Phase 3, where the levels of transmission are higher and the risk that the health system may collapse becomes greater.
On April 5, during the announcement of an economic plan against coronavirus, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said: “The hardest part of the epidemic is yet to come.”
Since March 23, Mexico had implemented the “National Day of Healthy Distance,” as well as social preventive measures to stop the coronavirus spread and to flatten the pandemic’s transmission curve.
Like in other countries, most patients who test positive for COVID-19 in Mexico recover at home and only 23.53% of the people need to be hospitalized. Of this number, 9.85% are considered to be in a stable condition, 12.51% need to be cared for in intensive care units (ICU) and 1.17% have to be intubated.
Millions of Mexicans are wondering if the state will have the capacity to face coronavirus in the upcoming weeks, when the curve will be higher. Last Sunday, López Obrador said that Mexico has a total of 6,425 intensive care unit beds with ventilators, which are required to give artificial respiration to patients in more critical condition.
According to NGO México Evalúa, 250,656 people could be infected by COVID-19 if this trend continues. Considering that 80% of people recover at home, the organization estimates that 24,564 will need to be admitted to the hospital and 10,528 will enter ICU.
Last Sunday, López Obrador said that National Defense and Marine Secretaries will also join the fight against coronavirus. With these two institutions, the Mexican president estimated that there will “soon” be 1,399 additional ICU beds and doctors exclusively for patients with COVID-19.
Considering the actual number of ICU beds and mechanical ventilators, there is likely to be a lack of 2,614 beds and ventilators just for future COVID-19 patients, without considering patients with other needs.
On March 27, López Obrador also said that Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, was trying to buy 5,000 more ventilators abroad; not a simple task, considering that other countries are pursuing the same objective in the middle of coronavirus pandemic.
Beyond the ICU beds and ventilators required for patients in critical conditions, there’s a lack of basic medical equipment in many hospitals. The National Assembly of Residents, a Mexican health workers organization with more than 9,000 Mexican health workers, made a survey with 400 interns and nurses of 200 hospitals and the results are shocking: 83% of the respondents said there was a lack of N95 mask, 71% said that gloves were missing and 56% complained about the lack of protective glasses.
In a few weeks, Mexicans will know how their health system managed the pandemic that has paralyzed other countries around the world or if, as President López Obrador put it, it was just a “passing crisis.”