Memo From Mexico | Spraying Blood And Importing Nurses

A recent article in my local newspaper was entitled “México exporta… enfermeras.” (Mexico exports….nurses) (El Siglo de Torreón, June 13th, 2004[Not online, see here]). It began:

“Each year, 10 % of nurses , of the recently –graduated and of those who work in IMSS, ISSSTE and the Secretaría de Salud [Mexican government health-care providers], migrate to the U.S., Spain and the U.K. for salaries that surpass 44,000 dollars annually.”

The article says that in the first five months of 2004, 1000 Mexican nurses went to the U.S., 200 to Spain and 50 to the U.K.

Once again, the wage differential is the great attraction. In Mexico, nurses earn, on average, 26.4 pesos an hour, or about $2.32. In the U.S. they make 30 dollars an hour. That`s quite a difference.

You know the story from the employers, we hear it again and again – “There`s a shortage! Americans won`t do the work! We have to hire foreigners!”

But for the other side to the story, drop into the website www.hireamericancitizens.org which has an entire section dealing with the alleged “Nursing Shortage.”

It asks the question: “Nurses: Have you been replaced with your cheaper foreign replacement yet?” And it puts things in perspective:

“There are over 600,000 American registered nurses not working as nurses, and countless other nurses who have become independent nurses. These are nurses… They are available… They are American… but hospitals won`t hire them. Why? It`s about the money. Hospitals refuse to pay nurses enough to keep American nurses interested in the job, and refuse to hire independent nurses. Instead of raising the pay to fit the job, hospitals have decided to call what is really lack of interest in the job for the pay being offered, a `shortage`….Hospitals would much rather have the cheaper indentured servant they can have by hiring foreign nurses who fear deportation if they don`t do exactly as asked…..”

As the article explains, it`s now easier than ever to import foreign nurses:

“All this shortage shouting has created some new loopholes to be created that allow massive numbers of foreign nurses to flood the US market.”

Lillian Gonzalez, an American R.N., contributes an article, Imported Problem?” describing her own experiences. She concludes the article with this prescription:

“As I travel across the country, I think about my experiences, and I have concluded that the better solution to solving our nursing shortage is to recruit and retain our own nurses.”

(Nurse Gonzalez` own website is www.AnAmericanRN.com).

Now let`s go back to Mexico. The exodus of nurses is actually making it difficult for Mexico to honor its commitment to the World Health Organization. In a treaty with the WHO, Mexico promised to have 437,000 nurses by the year 2010. At present, it only has 179,634. And each year, only another 2, 656 new nurses graduate. Of that paltry number, only half actually find work as nurses, the rest work in unrelated occupations.

Looks like Mexico won`t make the deadline.

It`s the same familiar story found elsewhere. Mexicans leave Mexico for higher wages in the U.S., where employers claim they can`t find Americans to hire because of “labor shortages.” Meanwhile, Mexico is hurt by emigration.

And of course, the Mexican laborers themselves are said to be exploited in the U.S. Eva León, chief nurse at the Hospital Regional Ignacio Zaragoza of the ISSSTE, admits that foreign hospitals offer Mexican nurses higher salaries. But she complains that they make them care for HIV patients, and other high-risk patients.

Does importation of foreign nurses really solve the problem in the U.S.? Does it solve the problems in Mexico and other countries?

Or are powerful interest groups simply playing pass the problem?

I`ve always been curious about how stringent a process is used to select foreign nurses.

If U.S. hospitals are getting the best-qualified foreign nurses, then we are taking these fine workers away from Third World countries, where they are needed.

If the answer is no, we`re endangering our own patients.

It`s likely that both scenarios are true, in different cases.

And speaking of those different cases, check out this news item about a nurse strike in Mexico in May:

“A protest by laid-off nurses turned bloody… when the health care workers extracted their own blood with hypodermic needles and sprayed it at the governor of Puebla state, Melquiades Morales Flores. A half-dozen of the 28 laid-off nurses sprayed blood on Morales` van and his clothes. He promised to negotiate their reinstatement at the government-run Puebla Children`s Hospital. A union official later said the nurses had been offered their jobs back.”

(The Week in Mexico: Bloody Protest, San Diego Union-Tribune, May 9th, 2004)

Just think about it. These were nurses laid off by the state. They protested, threw their own blood at the governor, who backed down and gave them their jobs back!

The way things are going, someday one of those blood-spraying nurses might be taking care of you!

American citizen Allan Wall lives and works legally in Mexico, where he holds an FM-2 residency and work permit, but serves six weeks a year with the Texas Army National Guard, in a unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Mexican ancestry. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at allan39@prodigy.net.mx.