More than 500 hospitals throughout Colombia are facing dire financial situations due to a combination of inaction and restrictive fiscal policy on the part of the government, according to the national public hospital association.
“We’ve gone from 400 to 506 hospitals with a medium to high risk of going bankrupt,” Olga Lucia Zuluaga of the association told Colombian news station CM& Wednesday. “What we’re seeing is a pathway to liquidation due to the the fiscal reorganization being demanded by the Finance Ministry,” she added.
The Finance Ministry, Zuluaga explained, has prohibited hospitals from going into debt in order to pay for the necessary personnel, supplies and services they need to accommodate the health benefit plans of their patients. Instead, they must rely entirely on money from health care providers funded by the government. The problem, however, is that these so-called EPS payments come in short, late or not at all.
“For example,” said Zuluaga, ” if a hospital bills $500 million in services, it only collects, or they only pay it, 60%, which is to say, $300 million. And their spending can only correspond to that $300 million, but that doesn’t take into account that hospitals have obligations of up to twice that figure.”
The situation, she said, is becoming desperate, and the responsibility falls solely on the government to act, as the publicly funded EPS organizations are the ones who owe the most to the hospitals, and the Finance Ministry’s tight control of hospital debt is what’s preventing them from finding alternative sources of finances.
The financial insolvency of and government inflexibility toward Colombia’s hospitals are some of the many complains of health sector employees set to join massive nationwide strikes planned for August 19.