Private hospitals in Ecuador are joining public hospitals in Ecuador in closing their Covid-19 wards as cases of the virus decline. Some private hospitals say they will no longer treat new cases due to the lack of patients and the health protocols required to care for them.
“The good news is that the pandemic is almost over and we can begin improving service to patients with other critical needs,” says Ana Delgado, executive director of the Ecuador Association of Private Clinics and Hospitals. “We can once again focus our attention on cancer treatment and dialysis services and we are seeing increasing demand for these as the fear of Covid declines.”
She says that all of the association’s private facilities that offered Covid care report a drop in cases. “Some hospitals are putting their ventilators and other intensive care equipment into storage and say they will no longer provide treatment to virus patients. What administrators have found is that treating Covid patients scares away other potential patients so it is logical to end Covid treatment entirely.”
Most hospitals that have ended Covid service are in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, Delgado says.
Health Minister Ximena Garzón says she is concerned about the cessation of Covid care by private sector hospitals but understands that those facilities must turn their focus on other illnesses. “Even though cases are low, we must maintain capacity in case there is a resurgence,” she says. “I understand the dilemma that these hospital face since they are for-profit and must concentrate on services that generate income.”
Garzón says that Ecuador’s vaccination, epidemiological surveillance and public health restrictions are the reason the pandemic is declining in the country. “When the Delta variant was first detected we were concerned that we would experience the same surge in cases that Great Britain, the U.S. and other countries experienced but this did not happen. We were already far along in vaccinating our elderly and vulnerable population and this controlled the spread.”
She added that the new cases being treated in public hospitals are almost all unvaccinated patients. “About 90 percent of the cases currently under care are the unvaccinated, which is the situation throughout the world,” she says. “We have seen a few so-called breakthrough cases of those who have been vaccinated, but these are rare and the severity is lower.”
Garzón emphasized that the pandemic is not over until it ends worldwide. “We are inter-connected with all the people of the world and must not forget that the virus continues to circulate. We must maintain our vigilance and our health protocols until we know that it is over.”