Taking part were Guillaume Corpart, Founder & CEO of Global Health Intelligence; Mariana Romero, Roy Director of Business Development & Intel at Global Health Intelligence; Agustin Zabulanes, Country Director – Mexico Boston Scientific; and Dr Benjamín Villaseñor, MD Innovation Director at Grupo Diagnóstico Médico Proa.
Mariana Romero began the webinar by asking participants to vote on how ready they believed Latin America was to deal with a pandemic such as Covid-19. Thirty-five per cent of the webinar attendees felt that the region was totally unprepared, 47 per cent believed it was somewhat unprepared, while absolutely nobody believed that the region was very prepared. Later in the webinar, Romero also explained that telemedicine was the industry sector most likely to come out ahead of the Covid-19 crisis, followed by remote communication.
Audience members also said that LatAm market information on lists of patient procedures, and in which hospitals they are being conducted, as well as reports on which products are selling right now, would be the most helpful information for them at the moment.
Discussing the distribution of hospitals in the region of Latin America compared to the rest of the world, Guillaume Corpart noted that as an emerging market, LatAm is home to almost one-quarter (22 per cent) of the world’s roughly 100,000 hospital institutions, with nearly one million hospital beds and 50,000 operating rooms. However, he added that the ‘fragmented’ nature of hospitals in the region means that the purchasing, acquisition and distribution of new equipment and consumables designed to help the Covid-19 response would not be as straightforward as in other countries and regions of the world. For example, Corpart explained that hospitals across LatAm are on average 3.5-times smaller than those of the US, containing an average of around 46 hospital beds. In comparison, US hospitals have about 162 beds on average. Upon examining the average number of hospital beds per 1,000 people in the various countries within Latin America, Corpart identified that compared to a country such as Germany, where there are 8.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, the numbers range from 1.0 to 3.6 per 1,000 people in the countries of Latin America (Fig 1). It is worth noting that in Central America, the situation is much worse, with 0.9 hospital beds per 1,000 people.
What’s more, Corpart said, Brazil – with 25 ventilators per 1,000 people and a 30-per-cent increase in the number of installed ventilators between 2017 and 2019 (Fig 2) – stands in stark contrast to its LatAm counterparts, all of which have seen an average reduction of seven per cent in the number of ventilators in the same time period.
Dr Benjamín Villaseñor explained that based on the four stages of an epidemic, different approaches yielded different results when it came to the number of occupied intensive care units (ICUs) (Fig 3), and while flattening the curve through strict confinement had the smallest impact on the number of occupied ICUs, it also led to a larger risk of economic instability and social unrest, especially as a considerable percentage of the LatAm workforce are independent workers.
Dr Villaseñor asserted that the best scenario would be for LatAm to reach the ‘sweet spot’ between case isolation and voluntary confinement.
The panellists also identified ways in which the health crisis in the region could unfold, citing supply chain interruptions (of diagnostics and equipment, for example); frontline healthcare staff who were under extreme pressure and the displacement of other surgeries; IT, which functions as a ‘critical nerve’; a lack of capacity and process in place to flatten the curve; and a lack of accountability and social responsibility. Agustin Zabulanes asserted that the general populace were ultimately the ‘area experiencing the greatest amount of stress’.
Panellists reasoned that this period could also offer an opportunity to improve leadership, redefining businesses; implement change; innovate both in how organisations work and they deliver care; collaborate across healthcare ecosystems’ stakeholders; adopt new, more efficient technologies; increase preventative care and early treatments; and overall, simplify processes.
The panel then carried out a Q&A session, discussing some of the issues surrounding Covid-19 reporting and the lack of tests, as well as the discrepancies across different countries reporting their ICUs and ICU bed statistics; when primary care was likely to return to normal; how strict social distancing procedures ought to be sufficient to control the spread of the virus; the possibilities of collaboration within hospital systems; and whether governments in LatAm would need to rethink how healthcare infrastructure projects were planned, financed and executed.
You can watch the original webinar, titled The Impact of Coronavirus on Latin America’s Healthcare System below.