As of today, Monday, April 6, between 60% and 80% of the 227 Intensive Care Units (ICU) beds available in Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) hospitals already have a patient. But, what would happen if the number of patients with covid-19 that requires the ICU support begins to rise?
In Costa Rica, the number of covid-19 patients in ICU is now 14, but the number has been increasing almost daily in the past week.
Though the number seems small, representing only 3.1% of the active cases (in other countries, it is around 5% to 10%), and 6.17% of the beds currently available in Intensive Care.
If these figures increase exponentially in the coming days as Health authorities warn if the population doesn’t take seriously the stay-at-home request and obey the Health orders to quarantine and isolation, “There would be no capacity, just as there has not been in Europe or the United States, to support the weight of that demand”.
This would mean the beginning of the collapse of health services, as has already been seen in other countries in the world.
The medical director of the CCSS, Mario Ruiz Cubillo, reiterated that, for this reason, it is so important for the population to understand the need to respect the social distancing and other measures issued by the Ministry of Health since the beginning of March.
Only by abiding by these measures will it be possible to contain a wave of seriously ill patients, which is what could ultimately lead to exceeding the limit on health services.
The institution, Ruiz clarified, has done everything possible to lower the load in services, but besides covid-19, there continue to be victims of traffic accidents or heart attacks, which are the normally require ICU care.
According to Ruiz, in normal times (no covid-19), the ICUs have an occupancy rate of between 80% and 90%. With measures that have been applied in recent weeks, such as the suspension of elective surgeries, that occupation rate is between 60% and 80%.
The experience in other countries is that covid-19 patients spend up to 18 days, on average, in ICU care.
“Chinese specialists advise us to avoid to the maximum that patients in mild or moderate state progress to severity because it is in this state that they will require an Intensive Care Unit, and that is where the costs and risks rise,” said the doctor.
For now, the situation in Costa Rica is still manageable. The Caja’s executive president, Román Macaya, explained that, until now, the vast majority of people with the coronavirus in Costa Rica have not required hospitalization.
Of the 467 confirmed as of today, only 26 have needed hospital support, and of them 14 Intensive Care.
“We have had patients who have left the ICU for covid-19 and who not only left the ICU but the hospital. That is, they fully recovered. Our hospitals are the centers of hope for those who need that level of care,” Macaya said at Sunday’s briefing.