VALPARAÍSO – Authorities resorted to mobile mortuaries at Valparaíso’s Carlos Van Buren hospital as occupancy remains at critical levels. The iCovid research group reported that infection rates are at an all-time high. Excessive mobility over the Easter weekend could crush the hospital network.
Despite its successful vaccination program, Chile has hit the one-million coronavirus case mark on Apr. 1. The government announced more stringent measures to curb infections, but hospital ICU bed occupancy remains alarmingly high at 95 percent. In the Valparaíso region, hospital mortuaries collapsed, and refrigerated containers are now being used to cope with demand.
Health experts warn that mobility must be reduced over the Easter weekend to avoid a catastrophe.
On Apr. 1 the iCovid Chile team led by Universidad de Chile, Universidad Católica, and Universidad de Concepción released a report, detailing a 43.7 percent increase in infections in the last four weeks. Universidad de Chile professor Jorge Pérez said “the rise is not the result of more testing but a real expansion of the pandemic.”
Valparaíso region registered a 28 percent increase in infections between Mar. 20 and 27; followed by La Araucanía with 27 percent, Metropolitan region with 21 percent, and Maule region with a 15 percent increase.
Carlos Van Buren Hospital in Valparaíso confirmed that refrigerated containers were being used to cope with rising numbers of corpses. The region has the second highest figure of coronavirus-related deaths, and registered the third highest number of active cases – 4,618 – by Apr. 1.
Health service director Eugenio de la Cerda denied that the hospital’s mortuary collapsed. “This is about a considerable number of dead people that we aren’t used to seeing, but we have done everything to ensure capacity.”
Valparaíso regional health secretary Georg Hubner told Radio Biobío that the ICU occupancy rate in the region is over 98 percent. Navy personnel from the far-south Magallanes region flew in to support bed conversion tasks.
ICU Bed Occupancy Remains High
The report suggests that the overall occupancy rate across the country is at 95 percent, but in the regions of Tarapacá, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Biobío, La Araucanía, and Metropolitan region the figure exceeds the national average. Additionally, 68 percent of beds are being used by Covid-19 patients, a 4.5 percent increase compared to iCovid Chile’s previous report.
Epidemiologist Ana María Moraga of Universidad de Concepción said mobility must be reduced as much as possible during Easter. “The hospital network cannot keep up with the demand increase in Covid and non-Covid bed occupancy,” she said.
Experts said over 70-year-olds no longer account for the high occupancy rates. Patients aged 50-69 accounted for 1,299 hospitalizations, under 50s required 556 beds, while patients 70 and over required 425 hospital beds.
Francisco is finishing his degree in Journalism at Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago.