Mexico doesn’t have enough doctors and nurses to face the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s COVID-19 czar, has warned that Mexico doesn’t have enough doctors to face the coronavirus pandemic

Mexico doesn’t have enough doctors and nurses to face the COVID-19 pandemic
Dr. López-Gatell recognized the country is facing a healthcare workers deficit - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 07/04/2020 12:49 Newsroom/EL UNIVERSAL in English Mexico City Inder Bugarin, Teresa Moreno Actualizada 12:09
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Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s COVID-19 czar, has warned that Mexico doesn’t have enough doctors to face the coronavirus pandemic, or to treat patients even when the country isn’t facing a health emergency.

Dr. López-Gatell recognized the country is facing a deficit and that it registered the lowest number of doctors and nurses for every 100,000 inhabitants among members of the OECD.

Moreover, according to a report issued by the World Health Organization, Mexico does in fact, lacks the necessary healthcare workers to face the coronavirus pandemic. 

The document is set to be published today, although EL UNIVERSAL already had access to it, explains that there are between 20 and 29 nurses for every 100,000 inhabitants. This percentage is under the number of healthcare workers registered in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Panama, and Costa Rica, where they had at least 100 nurses for every 100,000 inhabitants.

The report has released on World Health Day and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlights the need to train and hire more nurses in Mexico and the world. 

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The report states that: “To address the shortage by 2030 in all countries, the total number of nurse graduates would need to increase by 8% per year on average, alongside an improved capacity to employ and retain these graduates. Without this increase, current trends indicate 36 million nurses by 2030, leaving a projected needs-based shortage of 5.7 million (…). In parallel, a number of countries in the American, European and Western Paci c regions would still be challenged with national shortages.”

Furthermore, the report also deals with gender bias: “Approximately 90% of the nursing workforce is female, but few leadership positions in health are held by nurses or women. There is some evidence of a gender-based pay gap, as well as other forms of gender-based discrimination in the work environment. (…). Just over a third of countries (37%) reported measures in place to prevent attacks on health workers.”


Although the report doesn’t focus on Mexico, it explains that working conditions are key for productivity and performance in the health sector. As a result of its working conditions, Mexico was placed among the countries with the least solid work environment.

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The report titled The State of the World’s Nursing 2020, can be summarized in three concrete actions: 

1.    To invest in the massive acceleration of nursing in order to address global needs, meet domestic demand, and respond to changing technologies and advancing models of integrated health and social care

2.    To create 6 million new nursing jobs by 2030, mainly in low- and middle- income countries

3.    To strengthen nurse leadership to ensure that nurses have an influential role in the creation of health policies and decision-making

When López-Gatell was questioned about President López Obrador’s suggestion to ask Cuba to send doctors amid the health crisis, López-Gatell said Mexico has received several offers from other countries, NGOs, and foundations and considered that Mexico must accept the offer made by other countries. 

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On April 7, Health Minister Jorge Alcocer Varela acknowledged that Mexico lacks 300,000 nurses for its regular operation and added that to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, the country would need at least 13,200 nurses. 

Despite the need to hire more doctors and nurses, Valera supported the decision made by the UNAM and IPN to remove their students from hospitals and clinics because of the mask shortages. 

So far, the recently-created Insabi has been able to hire 2,800 nurses. 


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