Trying to save lives amid relentless drug violence, Mexican medical workers put their own on the line
ZAPOPAN, MEXICO - Physician Jose Luis Guerrero was at the bedside of a patient when the terrified young man splattered with blood burst into the hospital, screaming that hit men were chasing him.
Minutes later, automatic weapons fire strafed the walls. Two receptionists fainted. A grenade exploded through the window of the intensive care unit, raining glass beside a 14-year-old girl who had been injured in a car accident. Police shot wildly in the streets as patients in hospital gowns ran in search of closets to hide in.
It is the kind of medical emergency Mexico’s doctors and nurses have come to dread, as mounting drug violence tears at the country’s social safety net, shuttering clinics, creating no-go zones for ambulances and forcing medical workers to flee north of the border.
“We pray not to have these kinds of patients,” said Guerrero, a 32-year-old trauma specialist who is director of the clean, modern Arboledas Hospital in the suburbs of Guadalajara, still visibly upset by the memory of the July melee. The bloodied young man was targeted by two truckloads of assassins, police later said, because he was dating the girlfriend of a drug trafficker. He survived.
Murrieta said that in the past two years, 15 doctors have been shot to death in Ciudad Juarez - in drug rehabilitation centers, at their practices, in public places.
More than 250 Ciudad Juarez doctors now commute across the border from El Paso, where they have moved with their families for safety, Murrieta said. Seventy-five more have fled the area, and 30 percent of the city’s private practices have closed, he said.