There are a lot of reasons people love Ecuador. It boasts of the beautiful Galapagos Islands, the breathtaking Cotopaxi Volcano, and the awe-inspiring Lake Quilotoa. And for people who adore exciting and bustling cities, they would surely appreciate Cuenca, Banos, and ultimately, Quito.
While there are many reasons people should check out Ecuador, the biggest reason they might hesitate is the quality of Ecuador’s medical care. Because the country is primarily tropical, it’s easy to get bitten by bugs and be bedridden. And even if healthcare is cheap there, it isn’t exactly the best.
Currently, Ecuador’s Global Health Security (GHS) index is around 50.8. It’s not the worst, but it’s mediocre at best. And when infected by a deadly disease like malaria or dengue, the last thing a patient would want is poor quality health care.
You may be wondering why it’s like that. After all, Ecuador isn’t a developing country striving to recover from any disaster or civil conflicts. Its GDP ranks 67th out of 216 countries, and the last war it was involved in was already over two decades ago—with both participants claiming victory. So, what’s going on with its healthcare?
To know more about some Ecuador health care facts and why the Ecuador health care system is in this state and continues to fall behind, continue reading.
Small Healthcare Budget
As of now, Ecuador only spends a small percentage of its national budget on healthcare. In 2006, the country was reported to be only spending $561.7 million. The Netherlands, a country with the same population size as Ecuador, spends approximately 9.8% of its budget on healthcare (about $89.19 billion).
In spite of the country passing some form of universal healthcare law, it isn’t enough to ensure that all citizens receive the standard quality of healthcare that they need. Because of the small budget for health in Ecuador, the healthcare sector in the country experiences low numbers of medical personnel, shortage of medicine, and outdated or lacking healthcare equipment.
One of the reasons healthcare in Ecuador can still cope with its citizens’ medical needs is Ecuador aid organizations like International Medical Aid. These organizations help Ecuadorians by bringing in badly needed medical supplies and equipment. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. In spite of the organizations’ efforts, they can only reach up to 5% of the population.
Various diseases plague Ecuador. Some of the main problems the Ecuador health system constantly battles against are dengue, typhoid, and hepatitis A. In some parts of the country, people continuously deal with tuberculosis, infant mortality, acute respiratory infections, and HIV/AIDS.
Primarily, these ailments are caused and exacerbated by the lack of clean water and malnutrition. Now, 26.6% of households don’t have access to clean potable water. Moreover, the country’s sewage treatment is still an issue, with only 23.3% of wastewater being processed and treated and only 60% of households being connected to the country’s sewer systems.
Thankfully, the Ecuador healthcare system has reached a level where both malaria and dengue aren’t considered epidemics anymore by the United Nations (UN). However, impoverished people are still troubled with these medical disorders because of their living conditions and environment. It doesn’t help that Ecuador has three temperate regions—tropical, highland, and rain forest—that make its people prone to various diseases, particularly ones brought upon by mosquitoes.
Unsupported Health Insurance
Despite the perceived low quality of healthcare in Ecuador, its health insurance is cheap. Because of this, the country can afford to mandate every one of its citizens to have health insurance through the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social (IESS, English: Ecuadorian Social Security Institute). In most cases, an Ecuadorian virtually doesn’t need to spend too much on their medical expenses even if they don’t have insurance.
According to Ecuador health statistics, Ecuadorians spend 18 times less on their insurance than Americans. However, even if Ecuador health insurance is relatively cheap in the country, impoverished citizens still can’t afford it. And even if they do have health insurance, they live in the rural parts of the country that can only provide low-quality healthcare. Currently, 34% of the country’s population lives in rural regions.
Improving a country’s health care system is one of the biggest political challenges in the world. Even if Ecuador’s health system’s quality isn’t up to par with first-world countries, it still excels compared with others.
Having universal healthcare alone is a feat not too many regions in the world have achieved. Regardless, there’s a lot of room for improvement, and surely, Ecuador can push through in the coming years as long as it addresses the main reasons it’s falling behind.