November 23, 2020

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70% of Latin Americans postponed or canceled medical services due to the pandemic

Medical personnel carry out checks on patients with covid-19 in an intensive care unit of a hospital, on November 2, 2020 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Photo: EFE / Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

BOGOTA – Seven out of ten Latin Americans decided to delay or cancel health care services for themselves or members of their family due to the pandemic, according to a regional survey that warns of the secondary impact of Covid-19 and the urgency of measures to reduce the fear of patients.

“70% is a very high number. Although it is understandable due to the severity of the pandemic, we know that it is not sustainable and that it can generate other serious health problems, ”Brazilian doctor Silvio Junqueira told Efe, who presented the results of a survey carried out by the Ipsos consultancy to 2,200 patients in five nations of the region (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico).

This delay “can have serious implications such as the worsening of health and more expenditure of resources, because the person will arrive more seriously in emergencies and hospitals and there will be an increase in mortality,” warned Junqueira, who released the survey during the panel “Your health cannot wait”, organized by Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices, sponsor of the survey.


According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the pandemic drastically reduced assistance to health centers due to quarantines, fear of infection by the new coronavirus and interruptions in health services.

Data from the agency indicate that by August a quarter of the Latin American and Caribbean countries had suspended routine vaccination campaigns at some point and in 27 countries half of the diabetes and hypertension programs in primary care were stopped, while the Pregnancy-related visits were reduced by 40%.

By country, among those included in the J&J survey, Chile shows the highest percentage of cancellation or postponement of services, with 82%, followed by Argentina (80%), Colombia (77%), Mexico (72%) and Brazil (64%), which the Brazilian specialist also linked to the level of restrictions and measures taken in each territory to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The most delayed or canceled services in the Latin American region have been dental and ophthalmological care, with 48%; preventive check-ups or healthy children (27%); and other treatments, including cancer, and non-emergency procedures (23%).

Also vaccination, with a 17% postponement or cancellation, heart check-ups (14%) and orthopedic surgeries, including hip surgery (9%), have been affected, according to the survey carried out between September 29 and October 7.


While Latin America remains under strong pressure from the pandemic, with about 12 million infected and almost 420,000 deaths, experts gathered in the virtual panel, such as doctor Rubén Torres, rector of the Isalud University of Argentina and who was a representative of the PAHO in Chile insisted on strengthening the strategies that guarantee biosafety in services and stimulate communication and trust with the patient.

Along these lines, Sebastián Reyes, general manager of Red Salud, the largest hospital provider in Chile, explained that, although at the beginning of the pandemic the enormous challenge was to optimize the capacity of beds, now they have focused on making patients resume with trust the services, implementing covid-free centers, strict protocols and communication actions.

For his part, Gustavo Morales, president of the Colombian Association of Integral Medicine Companies (Acemi), which groups together the country’s insurance union, warned that it is urgent to refine and correct the “public message” because, on the one hand, it supports “It is safe to go to the doctor with the biosecurity measures in place” but, on the other hand, for some authorities “it is still desirable that people do not go to clinics and hospitals.”

Within the framework of the panel, the resource center “My health cannot wait” was presented, designed to help “patients obtain the information they need to seek medical attention and regain the confidence to prioritize their health,” explained Luly de Samper, international vice president of J&J Medical Devices LATAM.

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