Frustration and contagion line up in front of Clinic number 28 of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) in the capital. Dozens of workers sick with covid-19, many of them with symptoms, have been trained for hours to obtain incapacity for work and share space with people who are only going to be tested and who are exposed to contagion. As if that were not enough, it will not be possible to attend all those who wait, warn the nurses. It is the stamp of the Mexico of omicron, few deaths but a record of cases that has overwhelmed the capacity of primary care and clogged administrative procedures.
Andoni Méndez, 24, has been out of the clinic for six hours, a gray hunk in a middle-class neighborhood in Mexico City. Keep a positive lab test in a blue cardboard folder. He is not feeling well; His throat hurts and his eyes are watery, but he has no choice. “If they do not give me the disability, or I do not go to work and they do not pay me or contagion in the office,” he says, sitting on the ramrod. Telecommuting is not an option. Works in a call center and at home the internet connection comes and goes. Meanwhile, the company requires the process because the law establishes that Social Security pays part of the salary during convalescence.
It is the second time that, sick with covid, Méndez has to break confinement to go to the clinic. The first, last Monday, was worse. He waited more than 12 hours for the doctor to receive him and left after midnight “shivering with cold.” Despite the fact that the Ministry of Health recommends a 14-day quarantine, the doctor only granted Méndez seven days of disability and has had to return this Monday to renew it because at work they ask him to confine himself two weeks.
The omicron wave has caused an administrative funnel in disability claims. In theory, the patient can process it online; fill out a form and upload the positive result to the platform. The IMSS explicitly asked patients not to go to the clinics to do the procedure. “Do not go to avoid contagion, a beneficiary, family member or representative can attend in your place,” read an official document dated January last year, during the second wave.
Now, just when the daily cases exceed the historical barrier of 30,000 after the Christmas holidays, the patients consulted complain that the digital platform does not work well and affirm that the nurses have told them that relatives cannot go in their place, only them.
Méndez has brought a thick red jacket in case the wait lasts forever and is accompanied by his grandmother Blanca Estela Vélez. Former nurse at the IMSS, she has come to try to speed up the process, without much success. “It makes me want to go back to work here to organize this, because it is necessary. How is it possible that they have the positives made up of those who are not? ”He asks, his eyes widening. In line, those seeking disability and those getting tested give each other uncomfortable glances and maneuver to keep their distance.
“There are no more chips for the afternoon! There’s no more! ”A nurse yells as she walks down the line. They have distributed about 60 shifts in the morning and another 24 in the afternoon, but at least thirty people who are waiting have not gotten a record. The ER will remain open all night, but “it is still uncertain” if it will attend to those who are missing, recognize the nurses.
“This is inhuman!” Laura Almeida, a 35-year-old pediatrician who has been waiting for her disability document for three hours, indignantly tells them. He takes out his cell phone to record what the nurse says. “I have a cough, a headache, my feet hurt … I should be at home, not here,” he says. “I’m going to order the uber and I’ll be back.”
A little further down the line, Guadalupe Aragón, a 43-year-old hotel manager, and Pedro Contreras, a 34-year-old video game designer, have decided to stay. They still hope that they will be cared for, even though it is late at night. “On the internet it doesn’t work. I have tried three times in case my connection was failing and nothing. I’m going to ask my husband to bring me a blanket, ”she says, psyched up.
Contreras, with a thread sweater, assures that he endures like this and that he is not going anywhere either. This is the second time he has been to the clinic in less than a week. He tested positive four days ago, in Reyes, and in his first attempt to get disabled at the clinic they told him to come back another day, that there were no more files. “If I don’t do it today, it’s not going to make sense. I’m practically dating now. “
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.