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 has added ICU capacity. But there are also unconfirmed coronavirus cases in the ICU and other patients in the ICU. 

ICU occupancy in all of Colombia on October 27 was 57 percent and had increased to 65.5 percent by December 31, 2020 according to Infobae.

As of September 23, 2021 the ICU occupancy in Colombia was 54 percent according to LAFM. And according to RCN Radio, ICU occupation in some cities has increased in November by over 20 percent.  In this article we look at ICU occupancy in the three largest cities in Colombia.

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 November 12, Colombia had 13,615 active coronavirus cases.

On November 12, a total of 1,834 of the active and confirmed coronavirus cases in Colombia were in hospital rooms plus another 193 confirmed cases in the ICU for a total of 2,027 cases in the hospital.  According to Caracol Radio, in October 2021, 87.8 percent of the occupied ICUs in Colombia were NOT COVID-19 cases.

But there can be unconfirmed and suspected coronavirus cases are in the ICU not included in the above numbers. ICU utilization has surpassed 90 percent in some cities in Colombia.

ICU Occupancy and Capacity in Colombia

According to El Tiempo, on August 13, Colombia had a total of 9,483 ICU beds. This was 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.

By December 17, the total number of ICU beds in Colombia had increased to 11,296 ICUs according to El Tiempo. We haven’t seen an update but undoubtedly Colombia may have added more ICUs since December 2020.

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.

Recent ICU Occupancy in the Three Largest Cities in Colombia

Below we look at the recent ICU occupancy in the three of the largest cities in Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. ICU occupancy in two of the cities in now below 70 percent with the lowest in Bogotá. Medellín has over 90 percent ICU occupancy.

Bogotá ICU Occupancy – 67 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.

On January 16, ICU occupancy in Bogotá was 92.8`percent according to Semana. Reportedly Bogotá has starting sending some coronavirus patients to Barranquilla and Cartagena where ICU occupancy is lower.

However, on November 1, 2021, according to Semana, ICU occupancy in Bogotá had dropped to 67 percent. 

Medellín ICU Occupancy – 91.90 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 over 80 percent. 

And according to Minuto30, on January 16, ICU occupancy in the department of Antioquia, where Medellín is located, was 90.0 percent.  But dropped to 73.9 percent on March 14.

However, ICU occupancy in Medellín had increased on November 12, 2021, ICU occupancy was 91.90 percent in Medellín according to the Antioquia Secretary of Health, as seen in the following graphic with ICU occupancy in municipalities in Antioquia. And ICU occupancy in Antioquia was 84.76 percent.

ICU occupancy in municipalities in Antioquia, source Antioquia Secretary of Health, Nov. 12

ICU occupancy in municipalities in Antioquia, source Antioquia Secretary of Health, Nov. 12

In October 2020, according to El Colombiano, Antioquia planned to increase its count of ICU beds by adding 160 ICU beds over the following two weeks and add 30 to 40 additional ICUs to reach a goal of 1,400 ICU beds and Antioquia reached over 1,300 ICUs.

Unlike other cities, Medellín and Antioquia have reduced the number of ICUs available weekly, as cases have dropped. On August 28, Antioquia had 1,131 ICUs available, which dropped to 1,017 ICUs on November 12.

Cali ICU Occupancy – 67.5 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.

On March 12, ICU occupation in Cali was 75,3 percent according to Salud de Cali. And by November 11, 2021, ICU occupation in Cali was 67.5 percent according to the Cali government

Active Coronavirus Cases Status in Colombia

The number of active coronavirus cases in Colombia have been dropping then went up and back down and up again and in July going down, as see in the following chart:

Active cases in Colombia by day, source Worldometers, Nov.21

Active cases in Colombia by day, source Worldometers, Nov.21

Where are the Coronavirus Cases Hospitalized in Colombia?

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 7,000 ICU beds..

On November 12, according to INS there were 14,414 confirmed coronavirus cases in the hospital including cases in the ICU. So, this was about 15 percent occupancy of hospital beds in Colombia by confirmed coronavirus cases on November 12, 2021.

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

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.

Over 195 Medellin Guru readers have obtained insurance through our partnership including health insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance and travel insurance.

This insurance service is easy to use, just click on the button below to get started.

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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 the ICU occupancy in Colombia has been dropping as cases have dropped.

But by mid-November 2021, in the three largest cities, ICU occupancy was:

  • Bogotá ICU Occupancy – 67 Percent
  • Medellín ICU Occupancy – 91.90 Percent
  • Cali ICU Occupancy – 67.5 Percent

However, Medellín has been reducing the number of ICUs as cases have dropped, unlike other cities.

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

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Editors note: updated on July 19, 2021 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on July 18.

Editors note: updated on July 28, 2021 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on July 27.

Editors note: updated on August 8, 2021 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on August 7

Editors note: updated on September 7, 2021 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 6.

Editors note: updated on September 29, 2021 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on September 28.

Editors note: updated on November 13, 2021 with data for coronavirus hospitalization data for Colombia on November 12.

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