Mexican healthcare workers threaten to go on strike over unpaid hazard, holiday pay

Border Report Tour

Juarez nurses worry about exposure after 51 of their peers die from virus, and also about not being able to pay bills

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Overworked Juarez nurses, orderlies and other medical personnel are threatening to go on strike in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic if they don’t get promised holiday and hazard pay.

Several dozen marched in front of a government hospital on Monday morning carrying protest signs and saying they’re not only exhausted after eight months of non-stop dealing with coronavirus patients, but also face financial hardship and added health risks. So far, the virus has claimed the lives of 51 doctors, nurses and nursing assistants in the state of Chihuahua, while infecting 4,215 of them.

“We don’t want to hurt society (but) we’re demanding our COVID bonus and our Christmas bonus. We have bills to pay and we cannot pay them,” said one of the nurses taking part in the protest.

A health workers union organized the march and walkout. Their leaders say the nurses and aides will only staff emergency rooms if they don’t get their pay and will let hospital administrators care for non-emergency patients themselves.

The protest came even as the city reported 163 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths. The number of coronavirus-related fatalities in Juarez now stands at 2,080, compared to 924 across the border in El Paso, Texas, which has recorded a total of 86,172 cases since the pandemic began and has 37,267 confirmed active cases.

It’s hard to gauge the true extent of the pandemic in Juarez due to limited testing. On Monday, for instance, health authorities in Juarez said only have 280 confirmed active cases.

“They have earned those bonuses. This year has been a terrible one for our healthcare workers. In due time, they will get what they deserve,” said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, the Chihuahua State Health Department director in Juarez.

He did not address the threatened work stoppage, but urged people, including visitors from the United States, to do their part to control the pandemic.

“Everyone can help break the chain of contagion. We can all save lives if we do our part,” he said, referring to wearing masks, observing social distancing and frequent handwashing, and avoiding crowds or visiting friends or relatives if they don’t have to.

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