Ecuador patients with chronic illnesses struggle to get treatment during pandemic

Apr 17, 2020 | 12 comments

Ecuadorians who suffer chronic illnesses such as cancer and kidney failure are struggling to get treatment amid the coronavirus pandemic as basic supplies go short and hospitals suspend some services to reduce further infections, according to interviews with officials and relatives of patients.

Like other countries in Latin America, Ecuador’s testing program struggles to keep up with demand.

Doctors say the problem has reached critical proportions in Guayaquil, the country’s second largest city, where almost 70 percent of all confirmed cases have been reported.

The Covid-19 outbreak has overwhelmed the health system in Guayas Province, where Guayaquil is located, and is stressing the system in other cities. Ecuadorians suffering kidney failure fear dialysis treatment centers will close for lack of supplies and because of coronavirus infections among patients and staff.

“We are begging the government for help. Do not forget about us, please,” said Victoria Haro, 55, a Guayaquil housewife who has gone to numerous dialysis centers to get treatment for her 69-year-old sister.

Cristina Freire, a spokeswoman for the country’s dialysis treatment centers, on Tuesday said a number of patients have died in recent weeks for lack of dialysis treatment.

Hospitals in Quito and Cuenca, Ecuador’s largest and third largest cities, report they are still able to accommodate most of the chronically ill but say many are staying away for fear of contracting Covid-19.

Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo on Thursday said the government plans to begin home delivery of medicine needed by patients with chronic diseases, and to pay for private hospital treatment for those who are critically ill. “We are working to provide health care to patients with other types of illnesses that are not Covid-19,” she said during a news conference.

Ecuador’s private health clinics have for months complained that the cash-strapped government owes them millions of dollars for unpaid services.

Guayaquil’s SOLCA cancer hospital, a private institution that receives support from non-profit organizations, halted chemotherapy and radiation treatment for three weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the hospital’s medical director Guido Panchana said in an interview. The SOLCA cancer hospital in Cuenca continues to provide treatments but says that several staff members have tested positive for Covid-19.

Ecuador reported about 8,225 positive cases on Thursday, about 403 people dead and another 632 probable deaths from coronavirus in the country, according to official data.
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Sources: Reuters, CNN

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