Although the daily news reports from Cuenca’s two public and three private hospitals that accept Covid-19 paint a dire picture, most of those hospitalization are of people from out of town. The majority of patients are from Loja, El Oro, Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe Provinces, with Clinica Santa Inés reporting that it is treating four patients from Guayas and Pichincha Provinces.
Santa Inés director Julio Tamayo says that 16 of his 27 Covid-19 intensive care beds are occupied by patients from outside Azuay Province. The Vicente Corral Moscoso public hospital and the José Carrasco Social Security hospital have not released information on the residency of its intensive care patients but ward managers say that the majority of beds are occupied by those from outside Azuay.
Vicente Corral Hospital general manager Iván Feicán says his staff faces a “terrible and complicated situation” because of patients being transferred from small hospitals. “We do not turn anyone away but we are overtaxed for intensive care units,” says. “Some of the small clinics and hospitals in the region do not have the equipment and medications needed so we receive their people. They come from all over, La Troncal, Sucúa, Macas, Gualaceo, Loja, Zhud, and we must make space for them and give them the best care we can.”
Byron Ignacio, epidemiologist with the Ministry of Health, says that Cuenca and Azuay Province are doing comparatively well in terms of Covid hospitalizations and deaths. “On a per capita basis, the area is not seeing the full force of the pandemic that is affecting Pichincha, Imbabura, Loja, Carchi and El Oro,” said. “The problem for Cuenca is that it is the medical center for southern Ecuador and consequently receives patients from a broad area.”
Ignacio added that despite the current health emergency, Ecuador is faring much better than its neighbors. “The situation is very bad in Colombia and Peru, where they are experiencing 300 percent and 400 percent more hospitalizations and deaths than we are. Our problem is that we have a low number of ICU per capita.”