(QCOSTARICA) OP-ED – Daily we see the number of infections increase. No longer a few hundred or close to a thousand, they are over 1,000 daily. We listen to the reports of the recovered, the active cases. The deaths.
But a number that seems to be lost on many are the number of hospitalized, and of those, almost half need intensive care.
Why is the number of people in hospital so important?
Simple, Costa Rica has limited hospital capacity. A capacity that has to not only deal with the rising number of people with COVID-19 but also the regular needs of people injured in traffic accidents, suffering heart attacks, cancer patients, and so on.
The pandemic didn’t just stop all the other illnesses and injuries that occur daily, we just don’t hear of them as with the coronavirus patients.
The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), under the leadership of Dr. Roman Macaya, has done its best to maintain and shift resources where needed most, make alliances like with the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) for hospital beds in its Trauma Hospital, converted the national rehabilitation center into a specialized care for COVID, the CEACO.
It has beefed up resources in regional centers, in relief of the pressure of the four main hospitals: the Calderon Guardia, the Hospital San Juan de Dios, Hospital Mexico, and the CEACO, all in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).
But, if the number of infections continues to rise as they are expected, the number of sick will and the number of patients requiring an ICU bed and respirator, as it has been, there will come a point and very soon, where there is no more to squeeze or tweak or try.
The finite resources of the Caja will mean that doctors will have to soon decide who gets a bed, a respirator and who not or whom to pull the plug on.
The numbers are small compared to for example U.S. states of the same population. But those states have resources they can borrow or beg from, a larger system of support.
Small European countries can benefit from a mutual arrangement, though I cannot say they have or would be able to tap into a bigger system for help.
Costa Rica doesn’t have those luxuries. It stands alone in a region that, well, for the most part, is envied, looked down on for whatever political reasoning of regimes or governments that are as upfront with reporting the true nature of the pandemic within their borders.
The political machination of the region is such that the only friendlies in the region are Costa Rica and Panama, and they, the Panamanians, are up to the eyeballs with their own problems with COVID.
So, for all who are taking this pandemic lightly, or don’t believe it even exists or is a problem, I say to you, you are one of the lucky ones who has not had a friend, a family member infected, in hospital, on a respirator or worse.
I don’t believe the families and loved ones of the 543 people lost their lives to COVID and the 237 people in the ICU (as of September 9) share the same opinion.
And yes, if you are young and healthy, if you do get infected you will most likely come out of it with not much more than a mild cold, if at all. But what about those who you know that are not so healthy – your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers – who because of your reckless behavior and thinking, will bring the virus to them.
I am one of those elders, a few years into my sixth decade and though I reject the comments by some friends that I shouldn’t be scared – I am not – I certainly, definitely do not want to get sick. Certainly not with COVID.
Nor should you. Nor should you be a source of infection.
Do the responsible thing, wear a mask when you are around others, if not for yourself, for them. For me.
Don’t become a statistic, not the one that we daily hear of, the infected, the sick, the dead, but the one that did not believe until the COVID touched you, your friends., your family, your loved ones.
To paraphrase a unified message by Health Minister Salas and Caja President Macaya, who I dub “Batman and Robin” and President Alvarado (Alfred): “It will depend on each one of us”.