San Alejandro: emblematic hospital. San Alejandro: emblematic hospital.

State’s largest hospital has to be demolished

Earthquake was too much for the 41-year-old facility in Puebla

The largest hospital in Puebla will be demolished after sustaining severe structural damage in last week’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

The emblematic San Alejandro Hospital, which is operated by the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), is one of 18 IMSS medical facilities across the state that suffered damage in the powerful quake.

Another Puebla hospital, the general hospitals in Metepec and Tehuacán and several family medicine facilities were also affected.

But the high-tech facility — one of the largest hospitals in Latin America — is the only one that will have to be rebuilt completely.  The others sustained more minor damage including wall and ceiling cracks and broken windows, and continue to operate.

All of the patients at the 641-bed hospital and more than 2,500 staff were forced to vacate the building.

“For the first time in its history, this hospital was 100% evacuated to protect the safety and integrity of the patients and our employees,” Puebla IMSS representative Enrique Doger said.

The almost 30,000-square-meter facility, which was built 41 years ago, attended to 3,000 patients per day on average including many from the neighboring states of Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Oaxaca and provided 43% of all beds available to IMSS patients in Puebla. It also saw 2,500 surgeries a month.

Making up for the loss of such a large-capacity hospital will be challenging.

Doger said that other IMSS facilities are currently receiving patients who would have been treated at San Alejandro, and mobile medical units will also be set up to help cover the loss.

The San Alejandro Hospital was one of eight IMSS hospitals that suffered damage in last week’s earthquake. Hospitals in Cuautla, Morelos and Villa Coapa in southern Mexico City will also need major repair work that could take between 12 and 24 months while the Metepec hospital and another at Tultepec in the state of México will require repairs that are expected to take at least four months.

But the head of IMSS, Mikel Arriola, told Imagen Radio that the damage suffered would not have a significant impact on the system as a whole.

Just 944 beds out of a total of 33,070 are out of use due to damage at its facilities, he said, but the vast majority of its hospitals — 98.7 % — were still operating normally.

“Three per cent [of beds] is what we lost at IMSS. It’s considerable damage but marginal in respect to the number of beds.”

He also said that all affected patients would be reaccommodated in other hospitals and rebuilding and repair work of damaged facilities will start immediately.

Source: El Universal (sp), Excélsior (sp)

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