Shortages and Disparities: Mexico vs. COVID-19
Shortage in the Time of Pandemic
As you know, we are going through difficult times, times that we didn’t think would come and thought only happened in fiction or horror movies. Well, that horror has finally caught up with us and we are living it right now with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overwhelmed by COVID-19
Unfortunately, we have realized that no one, not even first-world countries, was prepared for such a pandemic. Private and public hospital systems, alike, are being overwhelmed by the novel coronavirus. The number of worldwide infections is in the hundreds of thousands and hospital beds are few compared to those infected. Given this scenario, it’s no wonder there’s a shortage of medical supplies and medications, especially in some countries like mine, Mexico.
Supply vs. Panic Buying
Unfortunately, in my country, the population has been involved in panic buying, and not only for basic necessities such as food, water, soap, toilet paper, latex gloves, face masks and other things; but also in regard to medication and supplies for different chronic diseases. In many countries including mine, there has been an alarming shortage of medications to manage all types of diabetes. It was expected that in the midst of a health crisis such as the one we are experiencing, a large part of the resources would be allocated to fight COVID-19 and other diseases would be overshadowed.
Although it is true that people who live with diabetes are at risk for other health conditions, it is also true that we have been severely affected by budget cuts, thus leaving diabetes patients unprotected and sidelined.
In Mexico, some public health institutions such as the Mexican Social Security Institution (IMSS) and the Social Security and Services Institute for State Workers (ISSSTE), gave the order to issue prescriptions for three months of treatments to people who have a chronic disease. This is to prevent them from going out month after month to their medical appointments to reduce their chances of contracting the virus.
But sadly, the reality is different for their beneficiaries, because, in the face of this health emergency, they’ve begun to experience medication shortages. There is a similar situation at the Health and Wellbeing Institute (INSABI, by its acronym in Spanish)—formerly popular insurance, where due to “administrative reasons” they CANNOT prescribe medications for more than a month. Since March, they haven’t had any type of insulin or the majority of oral medications for type 2 diabetes, either.
Although we know there is no problem with supply manufacturing, in reality pharmacies are also starting to be affected by this shortage. The few pharmacies that have insulin in stock have started to sell it at very high prices. It makes it almost impossible to afford by people who cannot go to work and who cannot buy their medications if they are not provided by the health service.
Understanding the contradiction
To some of us this seems tremendously contradictory to the messages from our authorities as they instruct the high-risk populations, such as people with diabetes, to not go out and to keep their blood glucose levels in range so that, if they get COVID-19, they can survive the disease with the least damage possible. But sometimes it seems that they themselves, are hindering proper diabetes management because there is a shortage of medications that help us manage our diabetes.
It is a very delicate matter to deal with, as priority is being given to fighting a disease for which there is no cure or any type of vaccine. While fighting this pandemic there is a shortage of basic supplies for health personnel such as face covers, masks, gloves and special suits to keep the risk of infection low among health professionals.
Chronic Conditions in the Time of Pandemic
It is not until that moment that we are able to see the difficulties and hardships of living with a chronic condition in the time of the pandemic, because without having a health system that is strong enough to withstand these attacks it is very likely that the number of complications in people with diabetes increase considerably in the following months for not having the necessary supplies to manage our condition. Some people are lucky and have health insurance for higher expenses, or the insurances in their countries cover their medications, but there is a very low percentage of people who have the opportunity to have this type of insurance.
The situation is alarming in many countries and it seems that it will continue to be this way for a couple of months at least, the only thing we can do is to stay together, help each other by donating medicine to those who really need it. If we have (as I do) a stock of supplies to last several months, we can help people who are living day by day and are surviving as they can, by giving them a box of pills or an insulin pen. I know that this can mean the difference between life and death and I also know that if we support each other, we are going to get through this contingency a little less tragically.