San Vicente at Rionegro: Hospital at the top of the hill

After interviewing Dr. Andres Franco, Chief of Cardiac Surgery over at Clinica Medellin, he invited me to tour San Vicente Fundacion’s Centros Especializados in Rionegro, Antioquia.

San Vicente Fundacion Centros Especializados in Rionegro, Antioquia

San Vicente Fundacion Centros Especializados in Rionegro, Antioquia

Rionegro is about 45 minutes from downtown Medellin but just a few miles from Jose Marie Cordoba airport (the international airport for Medellin.)  This makes this hospital well-positioned for domestic and international tourists.

San Vicente Fundacion

Vereda la Convencion, via Aeropuerto – Llanogrande, kilometre 2,3

Rionegro, Colombia

Tele: (574) 444 8717


We’ve briefly mentioned the 100 million dollar facility in the past, as it was one of the first hospitals in Latin America to receive a “green” designation (Leed silver certification) for sustainability, water conservation, energy use, material and resource use, innovation and indoor environmental qualities.  To see San Vicente’s individual scores in each of these catagories, click here.  It was interesting to have the opportunity to see the facility for myself.

My guide for the visit was Ms. Flor Cifuentes, the chief nurse for cardiovascular surgery.  In addition to answering all of my questions and showing me around the facility, we talked about nursing.  We were joined by Ms.  Sandra Milena Velasquez, who is the care coordinator for the facility.

Nursing care at San Vicente

The three of us spent much of the morning talking about their vision of nursing at San Vicente.    Both nurses see the role of specialty nursing as being critical to the success of the facility, and the care of the patients.

I think they are interested in my viewpoint as both an outsider and as a nurse practitioner, a position that isn’t recognized in Colombia.  We all kind of sigh over this – as it’s apparent in any facility that nurses here have extensive education (usually five to six years for “Jefes” and often function in advanced roles (particularly in the operating room.)

Enf. Flor Cifuentes

Enf. Flor Cifuentes

Eco-friendly and patient friendly design

While four stories are visible to casual visitors, there are an additional four floors beneath the facility.  The subterranean floors are part of the eco-friendly design.

The hospital is beautiful, and surrounded by the lush greenery that characterizes the hills of Colombia.  There are several gardens stocked with aromatic plants as a sort of “tranquility space” for patients and families.

At 2600 meters (8,500 ft), Rionegro falls into one of the top ten hospitals for altitude (along with facilities in Bogota, Quito, Ecuador and La Paz, Bolivia).

The above ground areas are filled with light, with large windows.  Many of the patient rooms, including the ICU room have a ‘family space’ for family members to spend time with their loved ones.

The equipment was state-of-the -art.  The cardiac operating room was large, well-stocked.  There is a computerized system for everything from climate control to lighting, to cameras and monitors.  Touch screens abound.  Nitric oxide connections exist in all of the operating rooms.  A cell-saver rested in the corner next to the bypass machine (heart-lung machine) in an antechamber of the cath lab, just waiting to be called into service.

One of the operating rooms has been converted into an angiography suite (cardiac catheterizations, peripheral vascular procedures and neurology interventions) with a second room being constructed nearby.

There is a helicopter pad on the roof for more urgent arrivals.

Phase II

Evidence of ongoing construction was rampant – as the hospital begins a second stage of construction; for a Cancer Center, a Neurosciences center, a trauma center, plastic surgery center (plastic, maxiofacial and esthetics), Women’s Health, Neo-natal care and a Psychiatric care center.  It’s a pretty ambitious endeavor which will also add 400 beds to the facility.  (Currently, the Rionegro facility has 145 general beds, 14 ICU beds, 20 specialty beds and 20 ER beds.)

“Ghost Hospital”

Unfortunately, for investors – the two-year old facility was essentially empty.  Among healthcare professionals, many refer to the facility as a “ghost hospital” due to the low occupancy rates since it’s opening.

Only one of the five operating rooms was in use during my visit.  The pre and post operative areas were empty.  So was the four ambulatory procedure areas.

The ICU was half-full at best (4 to 5 patients).  The only area that showed evidence of life was one of the ‘regular’ patient floors.  Amazingly, even the emergency room was empty.

Hopefully, this is just growing pains for the hospital, which is the newest part of the well-established San Vicente Health System.

The San Vicente de Paul Health System

The Rionegro facility is part of the larger San Vicente de Paul Hospital System.  The San Vicente hospital in downtown Medellin has a long history of patient care and community service.  (The film below talks about the San Vicente Hospital System – but it’s a couple of years old, so the Rionegro facility was still in the development stage.)

Chapel on the main campus of San Vicente de Paul in downtown Medellin

Chapel on the main campus of San Vicente de Paul in downtown Medellin

San Vicente : Rionegro has several advertisements on YouTube about their facility, and is part of the San Vicente  channel on YouTube.  The majority of it is in Spanish but there are a few English language offerings.

For one of ads featuring the Rionegro facility, (Spanish version) – click here.   The hospital gave me a CD-ROM containing the English version, so a friend is uploading it to YouTube so I can show it here.

3 thoughts on “San Vicente at Rionegro: Hospital at the top of the hill

  1. Buenos Dias me gustariasaber si puedo sacar un seguro por 2 meses quiero saber information por favor de avisarme gracias

    • Sra. Vasquez,

      Gracias por su correo pero lo siento. No soy una persona de turismo por Colombia. Soy una escritora sobre cirugia y una enfermera. Escribo sobre cirujanos y tratimientos en Latin America por pacientes.. Por favor, envia un correo a Proexport a Ellos pueden a ayudarte.


      K. Eckland

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