QCOSTARICA – Waiting lists for surgeries grew and continue to grow in the hospitals of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) – public hospitals – in the midst of the fight to attend to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, the average waiting time for surgery is around 544 days (around 18 months), evidencing the challenge that the CCSS has to deal with this problem that has worsened with the pandemic.
Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Cámara Costarricense de la Salud (Costa Rican Chamber of Health), highlighted that the pandemic shows the importance of public-private strategies to respond to thousands of Costa Ricans waiting for surgery.
Manzi recalled that on several occasions the private sector has shown its willingness to help the Caja to lower the waiting lists maintained by hospitals.
Recently, health authorities and experts from the private sector discussed the obligations that Costa Rica must fulfill as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at the OECD and National Health Forum, which highlighted the challenge of dealing with the waiting lists.
Waiting times at Caja hospitals are a reality that cause exclusion by limiting users’ access to health services, and they become a public health problem by not treating the population in a timely manner.
During the pandemic, CCSS waiting lists grew, on average, more than 200 days above normal despite the Caja’s best efforts to seek a way out to face a huge waiting list for surgeries.
Both presidential candidates, Rodrigo Chaves and Jose Maria Figueres Olsen, have offered plans to reduce waiting times at CCSS hospitals.
Figueres proposes the creation of a ‘Plan de Recuperación SOS’ (SOS Recovery Plan) that would be developed jointly by the CCSS and the members of the National Health System.
The former President intends to attend to the group of patients with the most complex diagnoses through the ordinary day and the strategies already executed institutionally in second shifts, “without additional investments to the ordinary budgets”.
For his part, Chaves includes the ideas to solve the problem in chapter 7 “Salud sí…pero de calidad’ (Health yes… but of quality) of his government plan, assuring that reducing the waiting lists is possible.
To do this, the former Minister of Finance proposes measuring the productivity of doctors and allowing patients to assess quality, and extending hours and shifts to make the most of the public health facilities. However, he does not delve into how to achieve it or the time in which he could achieve the objective.