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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Costa Rica Hospitals Buckle Under Pediatric Respiratory Surge

A spike in severe respiratory infections among children has left Costa Rica’s hospitals under immense strain and lacking sufficient capacity.

The National Children’s Hospital in San José has resorted to converting hallways and offices into makeshift patient care areas to handle the deluge of acute pediatric cases. Even so, director Carlos Jiménez acknowledged they cannot immediately admit every child needing urgent care at times.

Over the past week alone, the hospital admitted an average of 7 patients daily transferred from overwhelmed health centers across the country. As of Thursday, they had 105 critically ill children – exceeding the typical 12-bed capacity of the intensive care unit.

Jiménez warned that 26 children have already died of respiratory viruses so far this year. “We believe 30% of these might have been preventable,” he said, urging influenza and COVID-19 vaccination.

The crisis is being felt nationwide. San Carlos’ hospital reported being inundated with severe acute respiratory infections since late August. Max Peralta Hospital in Cartago also warned that its emergency department has reached maximum capacity.

With the rainy season fueling viral transmission indoors, the National Medical Union cautioned that pediatric deaths could climb without urgent action. They are pleading for the Health Ministry to issue an alert on the severe respiratory infections swamping the country.

For now, hospitals large and small strive to provide care amid dire limitations. From expanded ICUs to emergency room overcrowding, facilities are stretched thin by a patient load exceeding their capabilities.

Parents are advised to take preventive measures and seek immediate care if children exhibit severe symptoms like high fevers, breathing struggles, or lethargy. With hospitals pushed to their brink, officials urge bolstering community immunity to respiratory viruses devastating Costa Rica’s youngest residents.

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