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. So, by mid-July some cities in Colombia are now exceeding 75 percent ICU occupancy.

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 August 3, Colombia had 142,430 active coronavirus cases. The vast majority of coronavirus cases in Colombia are isolated at home and treated at home.

Only 11.1 percent of active cases were hospitalized in Colombia on August 3 according to INS out of the active cases that have not recovered or died.

On August 3, 14,788 active and confirmed coronavirus cases were in hospital rooms plus another 1,541 confirmed cases in the ICU for a total of 16,329 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 July 23 to August 3:

  • July 23 – 13,363 total hospitalized, including 1,493 in the ICU
  • July 24 – 13,899 total hospitalized, including 1,514 in the ICU
  • July 25 – 14,130 total hospitalized, including 1,517 in the ICU
  • July 26 – 14,646 total hospitalized, including 1,547 in the ICU
  • July 27 – 14,959 total hospitalized, including 1,561 in the ICU
  • July 28 – 15,226 total hospitalized, including 1,579 in the ICU
  • July 29 – 15,591 total hospitalized, including 1,567 in the ICU
  • July 30 – 14,968 total hospitalized, including 1,583 in the ICU
  • July 31 – 15,276 total hospitalized, including 1,577 in the ICU
  • August 1 – 15,791 total hospitalized, including 1,584 in the ICU
  • August 2 – 16,151 total hospitalized, including 1,562 in the ICU
  • August 3 – 16,329 total hospitalized, including 1,541 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 101,477 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 75 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 July 10 to August 3.

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of ICU beds occupied by confirmed coronavirus cases, Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 8/3

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of ICU beds occupied by confirmed coronavirus cases, Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 8/3

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 187,074 cases (over doubled). However, there are also many unconfirmed cases in the ICU.

ICU Occupancy and Capacity in Colombia

According to Semana, Colombia had 6,799 ICU beds in June. However, Colombia has been expanding ICU capacity and reportedly planned to to add 2,600 ICUs with ventilators in July and another 800 ICUs in August.  So, ICU capacity is likely at about 8,000 ICU beds in late July.

So, with 1,541 confirmed coronavirus cases in the ICU on July 26, ICU utilization by confirmed coronavirus patients was about 19 percent on August 3. 

For the first batch of 900 ventilators in July according to Minuto30, initially 300 ventilators were going to Bogotá, 60 to Atlántico and Barranquilla, 10 for Ciénaga, 10 for Magdalena and 10 for Maicao.

Also, 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.

What is normal ICU occupancy?  Before coronavirus, ICUs in many parts of the world were typically occupied at well over 60 percent. For example, 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 ICU occupancy in the three cities of Bogotá, Barranquilla and Medellín:

Bogotá ICU Occupancy

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 El Tiempo, on July 28, Bogotá had 1,533 of its total ICU beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients, which were 89 percent occupied on July 28 with confirmed COVID-19 cases or suspected cases.

Due to the high ICU occupancy in Bogotá, there is now an orange alert in Bogotá with the city having a start strict quarantine for many neighborhoods in the city from July 13 to August 23.

Barranquilla ICU Occupancy

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 the curfew in Barranquilla would be 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.

But a restrictive Pico y Cedula remains in Barranquilla. In Barranquilla, you can go out shopping and banking once every five days and twice in 10 days.

Medellín ICU Occupancy

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. 

Antioquia’s capacity of ICU beds for coronavirus patients (including ICUs in Medellín) on July 30 was 702, which were 79.5 percent occupied on July 30.

Among the efforts of Medellín to address this high occupancy is the opening of the Clínica de la 80, which is part of the expansion of the so-called “plan thousand”, which seeks to reach 1,000 ICUs in Medellín by adding 376 ICU beds with ventilators. 

Due to increased ICU occupation in Medellín, the city added protective measures including a strict quarantine on weekends and holidays and a dry law every weekend in Medellín help contain the pandemic.

Also, a new Pico y Cedula schedule for Medellín and the Aburrá Valley started on July 13 for four weeks, which only permits you to go out once per week based on the last digit of your ID for shopping.

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. On August 3, according to INS there were 16,329 confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital including cases in the ICU.  So, this was about 19.2 percent occupancy of hospital beds in Colombia by confirmed coronavirus cases on August 3, which is up from about 17.3 percent occupancy on July 17.

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 July 10 to August 3.

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital: Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 8/3

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia compared to the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital: Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 8/3

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. Only 11.1 percent of total confirmed coronavirus cases were hospitalized on August 3.

This is likely due to some hospitalized coronavirus cases recovering and some dying, as new cases are admitted to the hospital. However, keep in mind there are also unconfirmed but suspected coronavirus cases in the hospital and ICUs.

The majority of coronavirus cases in Colombia are not considered serious and are treated at home. On August 3, 2020, 88.9 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 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 August 3, 2020, only 11.1 percent of active coronavirus cases in Colombia were in the hospital or ICU and 88.9 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 August 3, about 19.2 percent of hospital beds in Colombia were occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients based on the INS report of 16,329 confirmed cases in the hospital. Also, about 19 percent of total ICU capacity in Colombia were occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients on August 3.

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 are starting to exceed 75 percent ICU occupancy.

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.

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Editors note: updated on May 17, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on May 16.

Editors note: updated on May 19, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on May 18.

Editors note: updated on May 26, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on May 25.

Editors note: updated on June 5, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on June 3.

Editors note: updated on June 10, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on June 9.

Editors note: updated on June 17, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on June 15.

Editors note: updated on June 23, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on June 22.

Editors note: updated on June 30, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on June 29.

Editors note: updated on July 5, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on July 4.

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

Editors note: updated on July 18, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on July 17.

Editors note: updated on July 27, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on July 26.

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