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San Juan de Dios Hospital reaches capacity for coronavirus patients

July 19, 2020

San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José has reached capacity for coronavirus patients, Mario Ruíz, the medical manager for the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS), confirmed Sunday.

As of Sunday afternoon, 73 coronavirus patients were hospitalized at San Juan de Dios, according to official Health Ministry data. Of those, 11 were in intensive care, while the remaining 62 were in intermediate care.

Ruiz said that the hospital — which is responsible for some 800,000 people in the San José area, including the heavily-affected cantons of Pavas and Alajuelita — had been receiving between 15 and 20 people each day requiring hospitalization with coronavirus symptoms.

“We took the decision that San Juan de Dios, for the moment, will not receive more COVID patients from the [CCSS] network to try to decongest the hospital and distribute patients to other hospitals,” Ruíz said.

“In reality, we are doing everything possible to keep our network of services active.”

Operations at San Juan de Dios Hospital have been further impacted by an outbreak of COVID-19 among surgical staff. The CCSS has shut down all but two of the hospital’s 15 operation rooms after at least 31 workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Nearly 40% of the 172-member surgery staff have either tested positive or have been asked to self-isolate.

“We are considering that those who today have a negative test and are asymptomatic, could be presymptomatic and in the incubation period and present symptoms in three to five days,” said Mario Sibaja, deputy director of the hospital.

For the immediate future, San Juan de Dios Hospital is dedicating one operating room for obstetrics, with only other one responsible for all remaining emergencies.

“Since San Juan de Dios now has just one hall for these emergencies, the rest of the CCSS system has to attend to these emergencies,” Ruiz said.

“It will take longer for patients to be attended to.”

Staff at San Carlos Hospital also tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning doctors and anesthesiologists from other CCSS hospitals — from Puntarenas, Cartago and San José — will have to fill in.

“Our network has its limitations,” Ruíz said, highlighting the logistical issues of treating increasing numbers of patients with the staff reductions.

The CCSS has announced plans for at least 159 more intensive-care beds and 134 intermediate-care beds for coronavirus patients over its June capacity of 24 ICU beds. Much of the added capacity will come from a new tower at Calderón Guardia Hospital, also in San José.

However, this new capacity in turn reduces the beds, staff and equipment available for non-COVID health issues.

More recently, CCSS announced it was adding 48 intermediate-care beds thanks to a partnership with the National Insurance Institute’s (INS) trauma hospital. Ruíz said CCSS is doing “everything possible” to enable the additional capacity, though reallocating personnel has proven challenging.

As of Sunday afternoon, Costa Rica had registered 62 COVID-19-related deaths. Two-hundred and forty-one people were hospitalized at public hospitals, with 44 in intensive care — both new highs.

Costa Rica coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths on Sunday, July 19
Costa Rica coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths on Sunday, July 19. Tico Times graph.

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