Ecuador’s health care professionals are paying a high price for their frontline service in the fight against Covid-19. According the Ministry of Health, more than 1,600 of the country’s doctors and nurses, or 44 percent of all confirmed cases, have tested positive for the virus.
“These are very troubling numbers but they aren’t unexpected,” says Vice Minister of Health Ernesto Carrasco. “Worldwide, about 30 percent of all confirmed cases are among medical workers and those performing this work understand the risks and sacrifices involved.”
Former president of Ecuador’s Medical Federation Alberto Narváez agrees that the numbers are not out of line with those from other countries but says Ecuadorian health workers face a greater shortage of personal protective gear than their counterparts in Europe and North America. “The supply situation has improved over the last week but the equipment problem remains and it is worrying not just for the workers but for those who require treatment. The vast majority of the nurses and doctors infected are returning to work after a two-week quarantine but this still causes a medical labor shortage,” he says.
On a WhatsApp group page for medical professionals, several doctors said the 44 percent number is too high. “Medical workers have much greater access to testing than the general public so it is understandable that the percentage is higher,” a Quito doctor posted. “If we had the widespread testing that we need, I think the number would be closer to 25 percent.”