Long time readers know that I am addicted to the capital city of Colombia. So there was no way that I wasn’t going to take a few days to head over to Bogotá the moment I had a chance. I just got back – and before I head off on my adventure to La Macarena tomorrow, I thought I’d post an update.
8D y 106-84
Since I was just stopping in for a few days, I decided to forgo renting my usual apartment. It’s a good thing I did or I would have missed out on getting to know the folks over at Charlie’s Place, a boutique hotel and spa in Usaquen.
It’s probably not for everyone – people who want to be in the middle of the tourist areas of Bogotá should stick to La Candeleria. Business travels on large expense accounts can head to the big-name chains. But for people like me, who want to be in the north side of Bogotá, around Barrio Chico and Usaquen, Charlie’s Place is ideal.
With just 22 rooms, the hotel is very cozy and accommodating. The manager, Wilson, is a Minnesota native and is delightfully charming and easy-going. The rest of the staff including Daniela and Javier are equally polite, friendly and helpful. (There’s a reason Charlie’s Place is consistently rated as excellent by Trip Advisor for the last several years.) The best part is that the rates are fair and the service is excellent.
Once I was comfortably settled, it was time to get back out and enjoy the brisk weather. (The weather is one of the reasons I love this city!) My first stop was over at SaludCoop where the doctors and nurses were nice enough to answer some questions about the ongoing healthcare crisis.
The Colombian Public Health Care Crisis
Right now, the public health system, EPS and SaludCoop are going broke. Basically, much of the money paid in by members of the health care cooperative has disappeared (been embezzled), leaving hospitals with bare cupboards. Hospital staff are feeling the pinch as payroll arrives late, in diminished amounts, or in some cases, not at all. (There are rumors that the money was funneled into the purchase of luxury apartments, fancy vacations and the like). There have been some protests and work stoppages by health care workers, but unfortunately, the local unions have been unwilling to support their efforts.
Unfortunately, the government seems apathetic to the concerns of the healthcare workers and their patients. The Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria went so far as to say that the health care crisis was a “lie” in a recent press conference, following up on his previous twitter (June 2015) and blog comments (Feb 2015), even going so far as quoting Christopher Hitchens in his defense of the health care system. Of course, no where in his statement does he talk about healthcare workers going without pay or operating rooms without suture. But he’s not alone in his apathy.
Most of the local politicians couldn’t even be bothered to show up to a legislative session on the issue. Only 9 members of the House of representatives (out of 166) attended.
This financial travesty has wide-spread implications beyond just the public health sector (of hospitals and clinics throughout Colombia). Many of the private facilities also rely on payments from the healthcare cooperative. (Imagine if medicare went broke through criminal mismanagement – it would affect a lot more that general and county hospitals). In many cases, these hospitals are forced to write off millions of dollars of nonpayment from the health cooperative. In fact, one of the largest hospitals in Cali (a city of 2.5 million people) will be forced to shut it;s doors, mainly due to losses incurred from nonpayment by EPS and SaludCoop. So it’s a huge mess that will probably only get worse without government intervention.
On the flip side of the Colombian Health Care Crisis and the declining peso (over 3200 pesos to the dollar this week) – Hospital Santa Fe de Bogotá appears to be thriving.
Santa Fe de Bogota’s new emergency department
Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of a guided tour of the new Emergency department at Santa fe de Bogota with the current Chief of the Emergency Department (and trauma surgeon), Dr. Francisco Holguin.
Fans of the Bogota book know that I spent quite a bit of time at Santa Fe de Bogotá in the past – and that it is one the highest ranked facilities in all of Latin America, so it was fantastic to see all of the improvements. (The ER was still under construction the last few times I was there). The first thing I can say – It’s big! Big, spacious, brightly lit and airy (especially for an ER). The is good work flow with several large workspaces for the doctors and nurses, instead of the typical traffic jams that occur in older facilities. It’s on the same floor as diagnostics (CT scan, radiology), the operating rooms and the intensive care units which means that critically ill and injured patients can be rapidly transported to where ever the need to go.
The spacious department now has 56 beds with an overflow unit for critically ill patients. Several specialists are on-call, in the ER and available 24 hours including orthopedics, trauma and internal medicine. Downstairs from the main ER is the fast track – for all of the non-life-threatening general medicine problems.
After spending two days interviewing and talking to people about the SaludCoop problems and EPS – it was nice to leave Bogotá on such a nice note.