MEXICO

Baby dying video sparks outrage over poor Mexican healthcare

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An amateur video posted online that shows a doctor trying in vain to save the life of a baby has sparked public outrage over Mexico’s poor health facilities. The author of the footage told FRANCE 24 why he filmed the devastating scene.

The events caught on video took place on March 21 in a medical centre in Cuapiaxtla, a borough of more than 13,000 in the state of Tlaxcala, to the east of the Mexican capital.

The man who filmed the video is a close friend of the baby's mother and he is obviously distraught. Powerless to save the baby's life, he started wandering through the corridors of the medical centre, asking medical personnel about the lack of equipment.

One of them replies: "There's no equipment. There's nothing."

The man then films inside the room where a doctor is trying to reanimate the baby.

 "We need an ambulance," she says, while giving the baby a cardiac massage.

"Gerardo, please, I need oxygen!"

Gerardo - a member of staff - goes looking for some tubes, then replies: "We don't have anything to connect it."

The doctor then asks the man filming to leave.

He replies: "I need to film what's happening. People are dying because of our authorities." He specifies that they came to that particular centre because there were no doctors in Ignacio Allende, the area of Cuapiaxtla where they live.

Eventually, the doctor says that the baby's heart is no longer beating, and that he'll need to be transferred to another centre. She turns to the camera: "I don't even have enough equipment to insert a tube into his mouth."

Leoncio Hernandez Montes is the man who filmed the traumatic scene.

"The doctors didn't even have a tube to put in his mouth to get him oxygen"

The baby's mother asked me to drive her to Cuapiaxtla, given that there weren't any doctors in Ignacio Allende's medical centre. Her baby was unconscious and was having difficulty breathing.

When we got there, the medical staff didn't have the right equipment to carry out an intubation [Editor's note: The placement of a flexible tube into the windpipe, usually to maintain an open airway]. It's not their fault, but they should've told us straight away instead of letting us waste time.

We drove to a hospital in Huamantla [Editor's note: A town located some 20km from Cuapiaxtla], where we should've gone to begin with. The mother ran inside, but she came back out in tears five minutes later, because her baby was dead.

"In Cuapiaxtla, there's one ambulance for the entire population"

I filmed this video, which was later uploaded online by my cousin, because I wanted to speak out against the lack of basic services in our municipality. In Cuapiaxtla, for example, there's one ambulance for the entire population. I think that the health centres should have a bare minimum of equipment to keep people alive, at least for as long as it takes to get them to a hospital.

We already talked about these problems with the municipal authorities and with lawmakers for the state of Tlaxcala. But they always find excuses. It's terrible to feel so powerless. 

Following the incident, Tlaxcala's health service authorities said that the baby  was dead before it arrived at the health centre. They added that the centre is only equipped to provide the most basic treatment. Even so, they have launched an investigation to determine whether the medical staff were partly to blame for the baby's death.

Municipal authorities have, however, laid the blame elsewhere. They've pointed the finger at the state of Tlaxcala, arguing that 'for years' the municipality's medical services haven't been up to scratch, because, they say, the state isn't investing enough.

Mexican Internet users have also reacted to the video by criticising the lack of investment in the country's public health sector. Mexico spends roughly 6% of its GDP on health, around half of what OECD countries spend on average.