“Bike Doctor” treats patients in Mexico

Mexican doctor Luis Fernando Hernández has helped more than 5,000 people over the past two years

“Bike Doctor” helps marginalized communities in Mexico
Besides his work in marginalized communities, Luis works at the ER in the Campeche Medical Center, where he covers night shifts Monday through Friday - Photo: Taken from Luis Fernando Hernández's Facebook profile
English 07/06/2019 16:12 Newsroom Mexico City Iván Cruz Actualizada 17:26

Mexican doctor Luis Fernando Hernández has helped more than 5,000 people over the past two years in the region of Campeche during the weekends, offering medical services to marginalized communities, completely free of cost.

The way he serves his patients, however, is far from conventional. In weekdays, he receives text messages in social media from people asking him for medical consultations for themselves or family members. On Saturdays, he takes his bike and tends to his patients, wherever they may be. The citizens of Campeche have come to know him as the “Bike Doctor.”

“I started doing this two years ago, I had just gotten my title and I didn’t have enough money to pay for gas. Then I decided to ride my bike to a place where someone had requested for my help. Once I was there, I decided to help other neighbors as well,” said the 27-year-old doctor in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL.

Besides his work in marginalized communities, Luis works at the ER in the Campeche Medical Center, where he covers night shifts Monday through Friday. This allows him to make enough money to cover for his expenses and continue helping locals during the weekends.

Health care in Mexico

The reason Hernández decided to start his Bike Doctor project was his dissatisfaction with his job in consulting rooms during his first years of practice. He claims patients often do not trust doctors and prefer to pick up their medication and leave without a full checkup.

“Part of what this project is about is changing society’s view of doctors. People seem to think most doctors are arrogant, mean, or negligent, but they fail to see the broken system behind these symptoms. Mexico’s public healthcare system shows an overall lack of inputs, staff, and spaces to work with. This is often out of the doctors’ control, who are usually eager to do more to help people. I know this because I was one of them,” he stated.

As regards the above, according to a Public Perception Poll of Science and Technology conducted by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), 25.9% of Mexicans feel respect for the medical profession, which is way below the public perception of firemen (59.5%); inventors (48.4%), and nurses (41.4%).

The report shows that the Mexican population rated the work of doctors in the country with a grade of 8.4 out of 10. The professions that showed the highest score were: Firemen (9.3), inventors (9.0), nurses (8.9), and investigators (8.7).

Furthermore, the National Employment Service’s Labor Observatory showed that Mexico had 291,596 people working in healthcare, out of which 56.8% were men and 43.2% were female. The average monthly wage of a doctor rose to MXN$16,331 (USD$832).

This goes to show that there is an average of one doctor per every 411 Mexican citizens. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recommends that there should be at least one doctor per every 333 inhabitants. However, unemployment rates for this kind of job remain low, at around 3%.

Nevertheless, aspiring doctors in Mexico often have a hard time overcoming all sorts of trials set before them by public institutions. For example, Luis Hernández had to study for four years to get his bachelor’s degree, then he had to do a one year internship with a wage of barely MXN$1,200 a month (USD$61.13), then he had to spend another year doing his social service, for which he received MXN$2,000 a month (USD$101.88).

Once he fulfilled said requirements, he had to wait for another year to earn his title. In the meantime, he requested a special permit from Mexico’s Public Education Ministry (SEP) to start working as soon as possible. He worked at a retirement home and a state prison before obtaining his professional license.

A small operation

Luis Fernando Hernández has assured that his work as a Bike Doctor fills him with personal fulfillment.

Through Facebook, he receives numerous messages from users asking for help and he visits them personally where they live.

His Facebook page provides a personal phone number for emergencies. His response time is nearly immediate, except when he is working at the hospital.

Luis attends an average of 20 to 30 people per community. He usually visits two communities between Saturday and Sunday, mostly Cayal, Nohakal, Pueblo Nuevo, Tixmucuy, Bonfil, and Melchor Ocampo.

“If you multiply it for all 52 weekends in a year, I have helped approximately 5,000 people with the Bike Doctor project,” he stated proudly.

The young doctor recently won third place at the Kybernus Award for Civil Courage, which was granted to him in Mexico City. He claimed that it was his patients who nominated him without his knowledge. When he received a phone call from the event organizers, he was very surprised.

“I was told that the award was for civil associations with social impact, but since there was nobody participating in my project except for my girlfriend and myself, I decided to register ‘Doctor en Bici’ (Bike Doctor) officially,” he added.

With the money he won as part of the award, he paid for most of the paperwork and the notary public’s fee. “We won 10,000 pesos and I had to invest another 5,000 to assure that everything was in order,” he stated.

In recent days, Mexico has experienced a public healthcare crisis due to a lack of staff and inputs. Such was the case of the National Cancerology Institute and the Federico Gómez Children’s Hospital in Mexico City, to name a few.

The lack of resources in the public health sector has become a national concern. As a mitigation measure, Finance Minister Carlos Urzúa announced on Friday, May 25, that the Mexican government had decided to allocate more than MXN$2.4 billion for public hospitals, an amount that the López Obrador administration had kept frozen.

Amidst this crisis, the Bike Doctor is growing more and more popular among Campeche communities. Some local doctors have even offered to help in his humanitarian task.

Luis wants to turn his initiative into an association that provides healthcare for poor communities while allowing young medical students to conduct their social service at “Doctor en Bici.”

“I will not wait for some politician to help us. The people of Campeche have done more than enough, donating food, medicine, money, food, and even toys,” he stated.