Dr. Sergio López Tórrez, a surgeon with two subspecialties, is concerned. Liver cancer is the first cause of death from cancer in Nicaragua and now that the Ministry of Health (Minsa) has fired him, many people will be left without the procedures he practiced at the Roberto Calderón Gutiérrez public hospital, known as Manolo Morales.
López, 44, is the country’s first liver and bile duct surgeon and two weeks ago, on June 9, he learned through Facebook posts that his contract was canceled by hospital authorities. Although he has not yet received the dismissal letter, since he is currently outside the country, several of his colleagues reported that he is on the list of doctors fired for requesting the regime to take action in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. . And nobody has contacted him to deny that information.
“We drafted a letter in which we urged the government to reflect, to issue protection measures, to provide protection measures to doctors and nurses, to the population,” he says. “The retaliation of the Ministry of Health was to dismiss the most qualified doctors and with that try to send a message to the rest: ‘if the specialist and the subspecialist were fired, well, I’m going to go there.’ That is my reflection ».
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Due to the pandemic, the doctor has been stranded since March in Brazil, where he is studying for a doctorate. He arrived with the purpose of remaining only six weeks, but the quarantine extended his stay. He is a general surgeon and an oncologist surgeon graduated from the Federal University of Health Sciences (UFCSPA), Brazil. He also has a master’s degree in Hepatology, also from the UFCSPA, and a laparoscopic surgeon with studies in Argentina, Brazil and the United States.
«I did surgeries, innovative procedures that only in the hospital (Manolo Morales) we had. Those procedures are not going to be done anymore. That group of patients is left unprotected, ”he regrets.
Getting all that specialized training took him at least ten years. In the hospital, “they can’t say I’m going to get this surgeon out and I’m going to get another one,” he says.
Each week, she attended to four or five patients and performed innovative surgical or embolization procedures that lengthened their life expectancy by several years. Many were low-income people who came from remote places, such as Las Minas, Río San Juan and San Carlos and knew Managua because they had liver cancer.
In the opinion of Dr. López, it is “ridiculous to politicize” the Covid-19 pandemic, which for him is the greatest health emergency Nicaragua has ever experienced. “By no point of view did I want this to become political,” he says. “The Government needs to listen to the thinking medical union. We do not want to act against the Government, but for the benefit of patients.
Being able to care for low-income patients was a “reward” for all their years of study, says the doctor. In the future, she hopes to do it again, but without political pressure and in a place where her freedom of thought is respected.
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Dr. López with the interventional radiologist Julio Castillo Blandino at the Manolo Morales hospital, after performing chemoembolization of a liver tumor in 2013. THE PRESS / Courtesy
“As a criminal”
Dr. Gustavo Adolfo Méndez, a pediatric oncologist, was also fired two weeks ago. He worked at the Manuel de Jesús Rivera Hospital, La Mascota and, like Dr. Sergio López, endorsed the pronouncement of April 30, in which 543 doctors pointed out the lack of state measures against the new coronavirus and, likewise, They highlighted the continued exposure of health professionals and the general population by the regime, through the promotion of massive activities and the restriction of the use of medical protection equipment.
Méndez was fired on June 10, when he was returning from ten days of vacation. They treated him “like a criminal,” he recalls. “They didn’t even want to let me past the main gate. They told me: “It can’t happen.” Then they sort of reconsidered and told the taxi driver: “Come in and leave it at Human Resources.” Human Resources remains at the entrance. They just handed me the letter, which said nothing, and I couldn’t get in to get my things, they stayed in the office ».
Dr. Méndez had been in the hospital for more than two decades. He was currently following up with many children, some of whom he diagnosed had been overlooked tumors. Among other procedures, he performed bone marrow biopsies and applied chemotherapies to patients from 0 to 15 years of age.
With his dismissal, he says, there are only four pediatric oncologists left to care for the around sixty patients who are taken to this capital hospital daily. “This is a strong blow to the population,” he maintains.
The day before his letter was delivered to him, he says, another doctor was also fired.
For Méndez the pronouncement that the doctors signed is only a pretext. “I did not consider that there could be retaliation when signing the letter,” he says. “For them it is an excuse because they considered it until a month later, because they see that it is against them and because they see that the General Budget of the Republic is running out and it is not remote that at this time Social Security pensions decrease further” .
Read: Medical associations call on the regime to reflect on layoffs and once again unite against the pandemic
Dr. Gustavo Adolfo Méndez, a pediatric oncologist, was fired from La Mascota on June 10. THE PRESS / Courtesy
The layoffs of doctors have continued. This recent June 19, a letter was circulated in which the director of the Oscar Danilo Rosales Argüello School Hospital (Heodra), in León, canceled the employment contract of Dr. César Elim Rivas López, a pediatric surgeon, arguing that “it does not provide good care to the patients”.
The authenticity of the document was confirmed to LA PRENSA by doctor Jonathan García, president of the Nicaraguan Association of Pediatric Surgery (Aniciped), to which Rivas belongs.
Dr. Rivas also signed the pronouncement of April 30. For García, the Ministry of Health seems to carry “the sequence of doctors” who supported the letter of support for the country’s Health personnel. “Of all the layoffs they have made, none is valid,” he says.
He also signed the letter; But the regime cannot fire him because he does not work in a public hospital.