Despite doubling the number of intensive care units and strict stay at home measures, the COVID-19 pandemic collapsed healthcare in Colombia’s capital Bogota with relative ease.
Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez refuses to admit a microbe defeated one of Colombia’s hardest working mayors who had assembled a team of scientists to prevent carnage, but it did.
We’ll have a hospital tragedy in the next few days.
Dr. Felix Martin
Weeks before the projected peak of the pandemic in Bogota, the only thing that is preventing the absolute saturation of the capital city’s intensive care units (ICU’s) is the death of patients.
Meanwhile, Bogota’s healthcare system is unable to process the growing number of people needing emergency healthcare, according to the National Association of Internists (ANIR).
Bogota’s ICU capacity and active COVID-19 patients
Source: Health Ministry
“Difficult and painful weeks”
After failing to convince President Ivan Duque to lock down the city to prevent her city’s healthcare collapse two weeks ago, Lopez warned that Bogota was awaiting “difficult and painful weeks.”
The grief felt by the families of 2,200 COVID-19 patients who passed away in Bogota will be shared by the families of people in need of emergency healthcare like cancer patients or victims of traffic accidents.
The mayor, who mourned the death of her deputy planning chief who died of the disease on Sunday, can expect fierce criticism from the city council as she delivered less than half of the 4,000 ICU’s she promised for mid-May.
What went wrong?
Lopez’s failure to convince controversial Health Minister Fernando Ruiz to shut down the city was the death blow to Bogota’s healthcare system, Dr. Jose Luis Accini, the president of the Colombian Association of Intensive Care and Critical Medicine told investigative journalism website Cuestion Publica.
The mayor’s alternative to lock down parts of the capital “doesn’t work because 90% of the beds are full.”
You have to see the city as a whole, not as sectors. The measure should, for this reason, not be per sector, but general.
Colombian Association of Intensive Care and Critical Medicine president Jose Luis Accini
Carolina Corcho, the vice-president of the Colombian Medical Federation (FMC), has been calling for a full lockdown for weeks.
Corcho also stressed Lopez’ failure to assume more control over the notoriously corrupt private healthcare intermediaries (EPS’s), which has limited the effectiveness of testing for the coronavirus and timely responses to outbreaks.
She should have expanded the public health capacity, the preventive capacity, to move armies of health personnel to all corners of Bogota, but she didn’t. She should have carried out tests, shorten the leash on the EPS’s and request control over the monitoring of the tests, because up to now 65% of the tests are done by the EPS’s.
Colombian Medical Federation vice-president Carolina Corcho
Lopez’s latest damage control attempts
While Duque appears to be determined not to allow a second lockdown, Bogota’s mayor introduced even stricter stay at home rules on Sunday in a desperate attempt to prevent unnecessary deaths.
On top of the rotating lockdown of parts of the city, Lopez announced that from now on the entire household of a COVID-19 patient would be considered infected and put under quarantine.
People with high blood pressure, diabetes and obese residents of the capital were also ordered to stay at home.
Those who have been in touch with a COVID-19 patient are also not allowed to leave the house.
At the recommendation of the FMC president, Lopez also announced the Health Secretary would put them on a leash and coordinate testing.