Colombian hospitals have been forced to turn to the government for assistance due to severe resource shortages, newspaper El Tiempo reported Sunday.
Hospitals throughout Colombia are in danger of being forced to suspend services due to the inability to pay for staff and supplies, as a result of health insurance companies (EPS) failing to pay the $2 billion that they currently owe. Banks have now begun to deny credit loans due to the high default risks.
According to the president of the Colombian Association of Hospitals and Clinics (ACHC), Juan Carlos Giraldo, the concern is widespread and the country’s three biggest cities, Bogota, Medellin and Cali, have all been affected.
Hospital San Carlos in Bogota has already been forced to suspend services and send its patients elsewhere due to lack of resources to pay staff and supplies, as it currently owes banks nearly $14 million (COP 25 billion).
“Many banks, in different regions of the country, have informed the hospital sector that the portfolio risk is very high. As such, what was before an emergency door today has closed and it is not possible to obtain credit from this sector,” said the ACHC president in a letter sent to Social Protection Minister Mauricio Santa Maria.
Giraldo has proposed to the Ministry of Social Protection the immediate creation of a fund to stabilize the sector by providing public and private hospitals with money to pay back their debt and to begin to charge the EPS companies high interest rates for delaying payments.
Last week, it was reported that EPS companies, many of which are under fire for the health sector scandal in which as much as $2.5 billion in state money was allegedly stolen by EPS and health sector employees, currently owe the hospital sector $2 billion.
According to El Tiempo, the government tried to relieve the situation in May by giving $200 million (COP 373 billion) to the EPS companies and to public funds in municipalities with under 100,000 inhabitants, so that the companies could pay back the money owed to the hospitals. In July, the government will make a second donation of money, which it plans to give directly to the hospitals themselves.