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. It’s much lower than you would think.

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.

Be careful of news reports out there and some posts on Facebook. There are some news reports and some posts claiming that the ICUs in Colombia are approaching capacity. But the reality is that very few coronavirus cases in Colombia are currently in the ICU.

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 Realty

According to INS, the vast majority of coronavirus cases in Colombia are isolated at home and treated at home. On May 25, only 9.1 percent of cases were hospitalized in Colombia according to INS out of the active coronavirus cases that have not recovered or died.

The following are the counts of cases hospitalized in Colombia by day including how many were in the ICU from May 14 to May 25:

  • May 14 – 883 total hospitalized, including 138 in the ICU
  • May 15 – 905 total hospitalized, including 136 in the ICU
  • May 16 – 993 total hospitalized, including 148 in the ICU
  • May 17 – 1,031 total hospitalized, including 157 in the ICU
  • May 18 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 164 in the ICU
  • May 19 – 1,129 total hospitalized, including 176 in the ICU
  • May 20 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 176 in the ICU
  • May 21 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 175 in the ICU
  • May 22 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 172 in the ICU
  • May 23 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 185 in the ICU
  • May 24 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 193 in the ICU
  • May 25 – 1,086 total hospitalized, including 205 in the ICU

So, the number of coronavirus cases in the ICU in Colombia hasn’t as fast as the number of coronavirus cases over these 12 days, as the coronavirus case count in Colombia increased by a total of 8,371 cases over these 12 days.

The following chart shows this graphically by comparing the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia with the number of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus cases over the past 22 days.

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia VS the number of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus cases, Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 5/25

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia VS the number of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus cases, Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 5/25

The bottom line is the number of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus cases has not increased as quickly as the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia over a period of 25 days, as the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia has increased over these 25 days by 14,975 cases (more than tripled). 

ICU Capacity in Colombia

According to President Duque, Colombia has 5,400 ICU beds. On May 25, Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) reported that 205 coronavirus patients were in the ICU. So, this was only 3.8 percent occupancy of ICU beds in Colombia by COVID-19 patients on May 25.

Also, 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.

According to INS, only 42 coronavirus cases were in the ICU in Bogotá on May 25. This means that only 2.7 percent of the total ICU beds in Bogotá were occupied by coronavirus cases on May 25 using the 1,555 ICU number for Bogotá reported by El Tiempo.

Where are the Coronavirus Cases Hospitalized in Colombia?

The following table shows cities and towns in Colombia with a total count of coronavirus patients in the hospital with at least 2 patients in the hospital on May 25.

Cities and towns with counts of coronavirus patients in hospitals, source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 5/25

Cities and towns with counts of coronavirus patients in hospitals, source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 5/25

Also, the following cities and towns in Colombia on May 25 had only one coronavirus patient in the hospital (not in the ICU): Agustín Codazzi, Armenia, Baranoa, Cabuyaro, Cáqueza, Coper, Cubará, Duitama, El Piñón, Envigado, Espinal, Girardot, Granada, Junín, La Calera, Madrid, Magüí, Maicao, Manatí, Olaya Herrera, Piedecuesta, Pitalito, Ponedera, Puerto Leguízamo, Restrepo, Río de Oro, Riohacha, Sabaneta, Samaná, San Carlos de Guaroa, San Cristóbal, San Pablo, San Vicente del Caguán, Santa Rosa, Silvania, Tibú Timbiquí, Túquerres, Valle del Guamuez, Villa de San Diego de Ubaté and Villeta.

In addition, the following cities and towns in Colombia on May 25, had only one coronavirus patient in the hospital in the ICU: Arjona, Bello, Filandia, Fonseca, Montenegro, Nilo, Orito, Pivijay, Puerto Asís, Puerto López, Tipacoque, Tocancipá, Tubará, Turbaná and Villamaría.

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 May 25, according to INS there were 1,443 coronavirus cases in the hospital including cases in the ICU. So, this was less than 1.7 percent occupancy of hospital beds in Colombia by coronavirus cases on May 25.

The following chart compares the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia with the number of coronavirus cases in the hospital including ICU cases.

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia VS the number of coronavirus cases in the hospital: Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 5/25

Number of coronavirus cases in Colombia VS the number of coronavirus cases in the hospital: Source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 5/25

Note that similar to the chart comparing cases to the number of coronavirus cases in the ICU, the total number of coronavirus cases in the hospital in Colombia hasn’t increased at the rate the coronavirus case count increases in Colombia. This is likely due to some hospitalized coronavirus cases recovering and some dying, as new cases are admitted to the hospital.

The majority of coronavirus cases in Colombia are not considered serious and are treated at home. On May 25, 2020, 90.9 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 Realty

The bottom line is that Colombia is treating most coronavirus cases in the country at home. On May 25, 2020, only 9.1 percent of active coronavirus cases in Colombia were in the hospital and 90.9 percent were being treated and isolated at home.

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

On May 25, less than 1.7 percent of hospital beds in Colombia were occupied by coronavirus patients based on the INS report of 1,443 cases in the hospital. Also, only about 3.8 percent of ICU capacity in Colombia was occupied by coronavirus patients on May 25.

A big concern is that a surge in coronavirus cases would result in not having enough ventilators and ICU beds in Colombia. But so far this hasn’t happened and ICU and hospital occupancy by coronavirus patients in Colombia remains low.

The biggest capacity of ICU beds in Colombia is found in the largest cities in Colombia such as Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. A 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 5, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization for Colombia on May 4.

Editors note: updated on May 6, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization for Colombia on May 5.

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

Editors note: updated on May 13, 2020 with data for coronavirus hospitalization for Colombia on May 12.

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.

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