We look at the coronavirus hospitalization rate in Colombia including the number of coronavirus cases hospitalized in Colombia and number of cases in the ICU and ICU occupancy.

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about the coronavirus hospitalization rate in Colombia and if it is increasing, as the number of coronavirus cases increases in Colombia.

Also, many readers asked about intensive care unit (ICU) room availability and if ICU occupancy in hospitals is increasing due to coronavirus.

The reality is that not many of the confirmed coronavirus cases in Colombia are currently in the ICU and Colombia is adding ICU capacity.

But there are also unconfirmed coronavirus cases in the ICU and other patients in the ICU. But ICU occupancy has been dropping in the largest cities in Colombia over the past month.

ICU occupancy in the four largest cities in Colombia (Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla) has now dropped below 70 percent in each city.

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, the best hospital in Medellín, photo by SajoR

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, the best hospital in Medellín, photo by SajoR

Coronavirus Hospitalization in Colombia: The Reality

On October 18, Colombia had 70,162 active coronavirus cases. The vast majority of active coronavirus cases in Colombia are isolated at home and treated at home. 

A total of 25.1 percent of active cases were hospitalized in Colombia on October 18 according to INS out of the active cases that have not recovered or died.

On October 18, 15,664 active and confirmed coronavirus cases were in hospital rooms plus another 1,931 confirmed cases in the ICU for a total of 17,595 cases in the hospital.

The following are the counts of confirmed coronavirus cases hospitalized in Colombia by day including how many were in the ICU from October 7 to October 18:

  • October 7 – 17,469 total hospitalized, including 1,977 in the ICU
  • October 8 – 17,210 total hospitalized, including 1,998 in the ICU
  • October 9 – 17,371 total hospitalized, including 1,987 in the ICU
  • October 10 – 17,527 total hospitalized, including 2,042 in the ICU
  • October 11 – 17,328 total hospitalized, including 2,034 in the ICU
  • October 12 – 17,429 total hospitalized, including 2,047 in the ICU
  • October 13 – 17,426 total hospitalized, including 2,047 in the ICU
  • October 14 – 17,612 total hospitalized, including 2,071 in the ICU
  • October 15 – 17,141 total hospitalized, including 1,902 in the ICU
  • October 16 – 17,438 total hospitalized, including 1,939 in the ICU
  • October 17 – 17,515 total hospitalized, including 1,958 in the ICU
  • October 18 – 17,595 total hospitalized, including 1,931 in the ICU

So, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the ICU in Colombia hasn’t grown very much as the number of coronavirus cases grew dramatically over these 12 days. The coronavirus case count in Colombia increased by a total of 81,889 cases over these 12 days and less than 1 percent of these new cases over these 12 days ended up in the ICU.

However, keep in mind that unconfirmed but suspected coronavirus cases are in the ICU not included in the above numbers and there are other types of patients in the ICUs. So, ICU utilization has surpassed 70 percent in some cities in Colombia.

The following chart shows this graphically by comparing the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia with the number of ICU beds occupied by confirmed coronavirus cases over a period of 25 days from September 24 to October 18:

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of ICU beds occupied by confirmed coronavirus cases, Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Oct. 18

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of ICU beds occupied by confirmed coronavirus cases, Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Oct. 18

The bottom line is the number of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus cases remains a low percentage of cases. Less than 1 percent of total coronavirus cases are in the ICU, even as the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia increased over these 25 days by 168,749 cases. However, there are also many unconfirmed cases in the ICU.

ICU Occupancy and Capacity in Colombia

According to El Tiempo, on August 13, Colombia had a total of 9,483 ICU beds. This is up from 5,411 ICU beds in May as seen in the following graphic:

ICU occupancy and capacity in Colombia, source: El Tiempo, Instituto Nacional de Salud and Oxford Univeristy, 8/13

ICU occupancy and capacity in Colombia, source: El Tiempo, Instituto Nacional de Salud and Oxford Univeristy, 8/13

Three things are notable in the above graphic:

  • In February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, Colombia had a total of 5,346 ICU beds, which were 90 percent occupied at the time with 4,810 patients.
  • Colombia added 4,372 ICU beds from March 31 to August 13.
  • On August 13, total ICU occupancy in all of Colombia including COVID-19 patients, suspected COVID-19 patients and other patients was 70.9 percent.

Colombia has been expanding ICU capacity and with plans to to add 2,600 ICUs with ventilators in July and another 800 ICUs in August.  

According to Caracol Radio by October 2, the number of ICU beds in Colombia had increased to 10,691 ICUs.

So, with 1,931 confirmed coronavirus cases in the ICU on October 18 according to INS and a total of 10,691 ICU beds, ICU utilization by confirmed coronavirus patients was about 18.1 percent on October 18. 

However, keep in mind that ICU capacity is not only used for confirmed coronavirus patients. There are also suspected coronavirus cases and other patients in the ICU, as seen in the above graphic.

What is normal ICU occupancy?  Before coronavirus, ICUs in many parts of the world were typically occupied at well over 60 percent and Colombia was at 90 percent occupancy in February 2020.

According to the American Hospital Annual Survey in 2015, the U.S. had a 68 percent ICU occupancy and this was before coronavirus.

Below we look at the ICU occupancy in the four largest cities in Colombia: Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla. ICU occupancy in the four largest cities in Colombia has dropped below 70 percent over the past few weeks.

Bogotá ICU Occupancy – 40 Percent

A news report in El Tiempo in April reported there were 1,555 ICU beds in Bogotá, which is the city with the most coronavirus cases in Colombia. But the number of ICU beds has increased since that time.

According to RCNRadio, on August 10, on July 28, Bogotá had 1,683 of its total ICU beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients, which were 89 percent occupied on August 10 with confirmed COVID-19 cases or suspected cases. This 89 percent was the same occupancy that was reported in the news on July 28.

On August 15, ICU occupancy in Bogotá had dropped to 86.9 percent according to RCNRadio.

However, by October 17, ICU occupancy in Bogotá had dropped to about 40 percent according to Noticias Caracol. Bogotá reportedly now has well over 1,800 of its ICU beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients.

Medellín ICU Occupancy – 66 Percent **

On July 30, according to El Tiempo, the department of Antioquia where Medellín is located declared a “red alert” due to ICU occupation reaching 80 percent. And by October 20, ICU occupation in Antioquia was 77.48 percent according to El Colombiano.

Medellíín’s ICU occupancy is more complicated than other cities. Instead of activating all planned ICU beds immediately, as was done in other cities like Bogotá and Barranquilla, which now have low ICU utilization of about 40 percent, Medellín activates ICU beds when the COVID-19 ICU case rate requires it.

On October 18, Medellín reportedly had 780 ICU beds activated and reported to the government with another 220 that could be activated when needed for a total of 1,000 ICU beds. Also, the ‘InspiraMed’ [project], will add more than 300 ICU beds in Medellín.

Medellín uses the count of 1,000 ICU beds when calculating ICU utilization (including 220 pending activation with 26 of those being activated according to the Mayor of Medellín). And the Antioquia government uses the lower 780 count.

So, different ICU occupation numbers for Medellín are now reported by Medellín and Antioquia. For example, the 66 percent ICU occupation above is what was reported by Medellín on October 20 and Antioquia reported 84.78 percent ICU occupation for Medellín on this date.

In other words, there are two ICU occupation numbers being reported for Medellín. But Medellín has a pipeline of ICU beds to activate as needed, unlike other cities, which have ICU beds sitting unused or have a limited number of ICU beds.

Cali ICU Occupancy – 52 Percent

On August 14, ICU occupation in Cali was 83 percent according to El País. This was down for 93 percent ICU occupancy in Cali in mid July.

By September 23, ICU occupation in Cali had dropped to 60 percent according to El Pais. Also, in Cali they started to free up ICU beds reserved for coronavirus for other types of patients, as ICU occupancy continued to drop. 

On October 21, ICU occupation in Cali had dropped to 52 percent according to Diario Occidente. The Cali Health Secretariat reported on October 21, the indicators of transmission speed, mortality and ICU bed occupancy in Cali remain stable.

Barranquilla ICU Occupancy – 39 Percent

In Barranquilla, an “orange alert” was previously declared in June due to ICU occupancy hitting 73 percent with curfews at night and on weekends.

However, due to a decrease in deaths from coronavirus in Barranquilla and an increase in recovered patients, according to CaracolTV, Barranquilla Mayor Jaime Pumarejo decided that the last day of a curfew in Barranquilla was on July 16.

Also, ICU occupancy in Barranquilla has dropped and by July 22, ICU occupancy in Barranquilla dropped to 65 percent according to El Tiempo.

Furthermore, according to RCN Radio, on October 5, ICU occupancy in Barranquilla had dropped even more to only 39 percent. Due to ICU occupancy dropping below 50 percent in Barranquilla, ICU occupancy is no longer regularly reported in the news.

El Heraldo even reported on October 11 that Barranquilla is now experiencing only one new coronavirus ICU case per day on average, which compares to 24 new coronavirus ICU cases per day in June and July.

Active Coronavirus Cases are Dropping in Colombia

The number of active coronavirus cases in Colombia are now dropping, as see in the following chart:

Total active coronavirus cases by day in Colombia, source: Worldometers, Oct. 14

Total active coronavirus cases by day in Colombia, source: Worldometers, Oct. 14

With active cases now dropping in Colombia and the number of daily coronavirus cases dropping, the number of confirmed cases in the ICU are starting to drop.

Where are the Coronavirus Cases Hospitalized in Colombia?

We have looked at the hospitalization rate for coronavirus in the 23 cities in Colombia with a major increase in coronavirus cases, which had 82 percent of new cases in Colombia in the 80 days from May 6 to July 24.

If you want to see hospitalization rates in other cities and towns in Colombia you can see this on the Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) website. There is a muncipio tab where you can find coronavirus information including hospitalization rates by municipality in Colombia.

Fundación Valle del Lili - ranked the best hospital in Cali and the best in Colombia, photo courtesy of Fundación Valle del Lili

Fundación Valle del Lili – ranked the best hospital in Cali and the best in Colombia, photo courtesy of Fundación Valle del Lili

Hospital Capacity in Colombia

Colombia reportedly has over 3,600 hospitals and clinics in the country. In addition, according to a study in 2017 by Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico, Colombia had 1.7 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants in Colombia.

This study implies that Colombia has about 85,000 hospital beds in Colombia with a total population of over 50 million in Colombia. But Colombia has added over 5,300 ICU beds in 2020.

On October 18, according to INS there were 17,595 confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital including cases in the ICU.  So, this was about 19.5 percent occupancy of hospital beds in Colombia by confirmed coronavirus cases on October 18.

The following chart compares the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia with the number of coronavirus cases in the hospital including ICU cases over a period of 25 days from September 24 to October 18:

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital: Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Oct. 18

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital: Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Oct. 18

Note that similar to the chart comparing cases to the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the ICU, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital in Colombia remains a low percent of total cases. A total of 25.1 percent of the total confirmed and active coronavirus cases were hospitalized on October 18.

This is likely due to many hospitalized coronavirus cases recovering and some dying, as new cases are admitted to the hospital. Also, the number of daily recoveries on some days has started to exceed the number of new daily cases.

However, keep in mind there are also unconfirmed but suspected coronavirus cases in the hospital rooms and ICUs.

The majority of coronavirus cases in Colombia are not considered serious and are treated at home. On October 11, 2020, 81.1 percent of active coronavirus cases in Colombia were being treated and isolated at home and were not in the hospital.

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America

Healthcare in Colombia

Colombia has 24 of the top 58 clinics and hospitals in Latin America, according to a study in late 2019 by América Economia. So, 41 percent of the best hospitals in Latin America are found in Colombia. Nine of these best hospitals in Latin America are located in Medellín and nine are located in Bogotá.

In 2018, Colombia had 23 of the top 58 hospitals. So, the count in 2019 increased to 24 of the top 58 clinics and hospitals in Latin America for 2019.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked. And no other countries in Latin America were ranked higher than Colombia. So, according to WHO, Colombia has the best healthcare system in Latin America.

Also, Colombia’s healthcare system is ranked higher than many wealthier countries like the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Canada (#30) and Australia (#32).

In Colombia, it is possible to have access to world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost compared to the healthcare costs in North America or Europe. Furthermore, the costs for healthcare in Colombia can be significantly lower than the costs found in the U.S.

Due to having the best healthcare system in Latin America, Colombia is probably better positioned than many other countries in Latin America to handle coronavirus.

Health Insurance in Colombia

Health insurance is relatively inexpensive in Colombia and will cover you if you happen to catch COVID-19.

One of the reasons that Colombia has such a highly rated healthcare system is due to a new constitution that Colombia drafted in 1991 that made access to healthcare a basic human right to all citizens of Colombia, as well as foreign residents of Colombia.

There are three types of health insurance available in Colombia:

  1. EPS – Entidadas Promotoras de Salud– this is the public health insurance that is mandatory for everybody who is a resident of Colombia. The monthly premium is calculated as 12.5 percent of the monthly gross income that you declare to the EPS.
  2. Prepagada – this is private healthcare insurance in Colombia. The monthly premium for Prepagada varies depending on your age, the plan you choose and any pre-existing conditions.
  3. SISBEN – this is a free government subsidized healthcare system, which is only for very poor or homeless Colombians.

Medellin Guru has partnered with an insurance broker to offer health insurance, travel insurance and other insurance products like life insurance, homeowners insurance and auto insurance to foreigners and Colombians.

We partnered with Angela Berrio, who is a bilingual insurance broker who speaks English and Spanish. And she has many foreigner clients.

Use the Medellin Guru Insurance Service

Angela’s company offers insurance services to all foreigners and Colombians who need assistance in their process of finding the best insurance protection while living in Colombia. With over ten years of experience, they design the plan that best fits your needs allowing you to enjoy your life abroad.

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Medellin Guru’s Coronavirus Series

Medellin Guru has a series of articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts in Colombia: Also, these articles are being kept up-to-date, as this is a fast-moving topic:

The Bottom Line: Coronavirus Hospitalization in Colombia: Myth vs Reality

The bottom line is that Colombia is treating most coronavirus cases in the country at home. On October 18, 2020, 25.1 percent of active coronavirus cases in Colombia were in the hospital or ICU and 74.9 percent were being treated and isolated at home.

In addition, occupancy of hospital beds and ICU beds by confirmed coronavirus cases in Colombia remains fairly low.

On October 18, about 19.6 percent of hospital beds in Colombia were occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients based on the INS report of 17,595 total confirmed cases in the hospital (either hospital room or ICU). Also, about 18.1 percent of total ICU capacity in Colombia were occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients on October 18.

But keep in mind that there are also unconfirmed cases in the ICU and other types of patients in the ICU. So, some cities in Colombia have exceeded 70 percent ICU occupancy. But the ICU occupancy in the four largest cities in Colombia has dropped below 70 percent over the past several weeks..

A big concern is that a surge in coronavirus cases would result in not having enough ventilators and ICU beds in Colombia. But, Colombia has been adding ICU capacity each month. Another concern is for the smaller cities and towns, which have a much more limited capacity of ICU beds.

Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.

Editors note: updated on August 18, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on August 16.

Editors note: updated on August 24, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on August 22.

Editors note: updated on August 28, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on August 27.

Editors note: updated on September 6, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 4.

Editors note: updated on September 12, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 10.

Editors note: updated on September 21, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 18.

Editors note: updated on September 26, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 24.

Editors note: updated on October 3, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 30.

Editors note: updated on October 12, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on October 11.

Editors note: updated on October 21, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on October 18.

Liked it? Take a second to support Medellin Guru on Patreon! The future of Medellin Guru needs the help of readers to remain ad free.