SANTIAGO – As the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases in Santiago continues its steep climb, hospitals in the worst affected parts of the capital are collapsing. They report a shortage of equipment that is linked to the death of at least two patients. The situation in the heaviest hit region of the country seems to be a lot worse than authorities want to admit.
A 36-year-old Covid-19 patient died this weekend in the San José Hospital in Independencia, a Santiago district with a high number of confirmed cases. According to the Federation of Public Health Associations (Fedasap), which released the news about the patient’s death, there was a lack of mechanical ventilators in the hospital and, as a result, the patient couldn’t get the treatment necessary.
On May 7, a 60-year-old patient was taken to the same hospital in an ambulance. After spending 13 hours in the vehicle, she died there without ever entering the hospital. It was not until today, May 11, that the family of the deceased woman learned she had died from the coronavirus.
Collapsing Hospitals in Santiago
Lack of medical equipment is not the only problem at San José Hospital, Cooperativa reports. The hospital is operating with 25 percent fewer staff due to financial problems, the intensive care is collapsed, and the patients are sent to other hospitals as they can’t get proper treatment in what is one of the major hospitals in the north of Santiago. General doctors have been reassigned to intensive care, and at least 38 staff members have tested positive for Covid-19.
Hospitals in other districts of Santiago are suffering from similar problems. The Davila Clinic, a private hospital in Recoleta, claims that the intensive care unit has been overflowing with Covid-19 patients for at least a week already. According to investigative journalism platform Interferencia, the hospital had to send some away. Currently, 85 percent of the beds in emergency units are occupied, although only 40 percent are occupied by coronavirus patients, showing that the healthcare capacity in these hospitals was already under heavy pressure even before the coronavirus outbreak struck Chile.
A lack of equipment, staff, and beds, and collapsing intensive care units were also reported in the Salvador Hospital and the Sótero del Río Hospital – where 75 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus. With winter and the flu season approaching, health experts warn that hospitals in Santiago and other parts of Chile haven’t seen the worst yet. The pressure is set to increase, they say.
Even at home, Chileans are hit by the dire situation in the hospitals. A 40-year-old man died from Covid-19 this weekend after he had received his positive diagnosis on Friday. He was told to quarantine at home, where he died one day later. At first, the cause of death was not linked to coronavirus and it took authorities 26 hours to collect his body from the house. On Monday, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich called the situation “a misunderstanding.”
Health authorities have announced that in the coming two weeks, 640 intensive care beds and nearly 200 mechanical ventilators will be distributed to hospital across the country. According to the authorities, as of Monday, 75 percent of all intensive care beds in the country are occupied. The authorities also announced that ventilators from the Araucanía and Biobío region will be sent to the Metropolitan region, where the highest number of coronavirus cases is concentrated. The authorities added that in the future it will be possible to transfer patients to the Valparaíso and O’Higgins region if necessary.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.