Costa Rica reaches 'critical condition' at its hospitals

We're getting tired of writing the same story over and over.

In what has unfortunately become a common theme, today’s Costa Rica Daily concerns the coronavirus pandemic in Costa Rica. To make a long story short: Things continue to get worse at an alarming rate.

That’s a bummer to read on a Monday morning, so here’s a picture of a cute sloth:

Still here? OK, time for the bad news:

The Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja), which runs the country’s universal healthcare system, has reserved 359 intensive-care beds for coronavirus patients. The quality of care for car-crash victims, heart attacks, strokes, Covid-19 etc. would all suffer if Costa Rica exceeded 359.

There are currently 435 Covid-19 patients in a Costa Rican ICU bed.

This means the Caja is at 120% of its allotted capacity for Covid-19 ICU patients, in addition to having more than 1,150 total Covid-19 patients hospitalized.

“It is never a good time to get sick, but right now is the worst time,” said Roman Macaya, the Caja’s president.

Sunday, the Caja sent a letter to the Presidency informing of the “critical condition of hospital saturation.” The communication detailed how timely and quality care have been sacrificed due to the number of Covid-19 patients requiring an ICU bed.

“The Caja had never had more than 1,000 hospitalized patients for the same diagnosis in its 80 years of existence,” the institution said in a statement.

“Every effort is being made with a focus on avoiding that any patient is left without a bed, but optimal patient care is being compromised.”

Government considers Red Alert

The National Emergency Commission (CNE) is meeting today with health authorities and the Presidency to evaluate whether to declare a Red Alert due to the saturation of hospital beds.

A Red Alert can only be declared by the President of the Republic, with coordination from other authorities. It would allow the Caja to use “all available resources” to face the emergency on-hand.

However, as Costa Rica’s health authorities have said since last March, the battle against the coronavirus cannot be won in hospitals.

Today, most non-essential businesses in the Central Valley can reopen, leaving Costa Rica with very few restrictions on permitted activities. In-person school, in-person dining, malls, movie theaters, bars, religious gatherings and much more are permitted.

When it comes to balancing potential health risks with economic relief, there are certainly no easy answers. But right now, the Costa Rican government appears to have none.

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