Workers in the Federal Ministry of Health report that they are required to work in person despite the COVID outbreak recorded in the offices of the Programming and Budget Directorate.
In an interview for Animal Politics, employees in that area noted that in the last two weeks at least 20 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, among the 100 workers working there. I mean, almost a quarter of the staff.
The offices are located on the 10th floor of the One Marina Park building, located in Marina Nacional #60.
The Program and Budget Directorate is led by Francisco Martínez Martínez and depends on the Management and Finance Unit of the Ministry of Health, whose owner is Pedro Flores.
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According to Ana, who asked to change her name for security reasons, 50 trusted employees and 50 base employees work on this floor.
As for the 50 base employees, thanks to their union benefits, they have a guard role and only attend the office three days a week. There is no vulnerable population in this sector.
While the 50 trusted employees do not have this option and attend daily, even though there are vulnerable people among them.
Animal Politics sought out the Ministry of Health to learn about its position on the case. The unit replied that until now it was not aware of the situation and would review whether there were any complaints from employees.
The outbreak began two weeks ago
Ana points out that the outbreak began on November 9.
With knowledge of this, between 9 and 13 November the management carried out several tests and 10 cases were confirmed, among these there are 8 people of vulnerable population. On Tuesday, November 17, another 35 tests were done, resulting in 10 positive people.
Last Friday there was a third round of tests in which two more positive people turned out.
All tests were conducted at the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference (InDRE). More tests will be taken this week.
Ana says that although the official figure is 20 positive cases, they suspect that at this point the number of contagions is much higher.
Despite this, the management’s instruction is to continue going to the office.
Jorge, another local employee (who also asked to change his name), recounts that the decision not to work at home is of the director, Francisco Martínez, who does attend the office but stays away from the staff and only gives the work instructions through the area managers.
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«Francis walked away from us before we could ask him to work from home, now the area managers have told us that the instruction is to stay here until we see if there are more cases, which we find absurd,» Jorge says.
Both Jorge and Ana are trusted employees and as such are said to be more affected because they do not have a union to back them up, as in the case of base workers. They fear complaining directly to the Ministry of Health as retaliation could be taken against them.
Both understand the importance of working in the office by being the management in charge of managing the Health Sector budget, but say they fear for their lives and that of their peers.
Cases that could be avoided
Jorge says that among the cases that have tested positive for COVID, there are at least three people who are vulnerable people and were not sent home.
One of them is an area director, who had to show up for work early after surgery, for management instruction. After a few days he began to feel bad, he was one of the first positives.
In this case are added another employee and an area deputy director, also older adults, who were positive, one of them is asymptomatic.
All these workers, like others with diabetes or obesity, have one thing in common: they are trusted workers and as such have not been able to go home as that benefit is only for base employees.
«What we want is for President López Obrador’s word to be fulfilled, he said that the population is risk should go home and how it is possible that they have our peers working like this just because they have no basis. We are in the same situation and although we have no comorability we fear for our lives and for those of our families,» jorge says.
Ana and Jorge call on federal health authorities to assess the dismissal of THE Director General, Francisco Martinez out of negligence, «since he cares more about imposing his tyranny than human life.»
Base staff also complains
For their part, the base staff, i.e. unionized, expressed their displeasure at handling the situation and say they will not return to the office until they are given a solution.
On Monday, base employees who are not at-risk populations but are still forced to work face-to-face twice a week, demonstrated in the building lobby to demand a solution to the COVID outbreak.
Like their peers, the base staff arguing from their offices should already be classified as a high-risk area of contagion and ask management to let them work from home until the situation is monitored.
After a while, the base workers withdrew from the site without being cared for and headed to the headquarters of the Ministry of Health in Liege.
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