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San José Hospitals Cannot Cope With Demand

August 19, 2005

EMERGENCY services at the three largest public hospitals in San José have reached their saturation point because of higher demand than the hospitals can cope with, the daily La Nación reported. The affected hospitals are México, San Juan de Dios and Calderón Guardia.A fire on July 12 destroyed much of the fourth and fifth floors of Calderón Guardia, claiming 19 lives in the process. Hundreds of patients had to be evacuated and transferred to other hospitals (TT, July 19). The hospital has yet to rebuild the destroyed wings and return to its previous level of service, meaning that other area hospitals have had to absorb much of Calderón Guardia’s patient load.The three hospitals attend to approximately 1,300 patients daily, just under half of which are emergencies, the daily reported.Marco Antonio Salazar, the medical director for the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja), which oversees the public hospitals, said the Caja is looking into ways to expand the services of the nine metropolitan clinics to ease the load. Four of these clinics already extended their hours to a 24-hour schedule as a result of the Calderón Guardia fire, La Nación reported.However, officials explained that the Calderón Guardia fire only worsened a pre-existing problem, as demand had been steadily growing for some time.Caja officials are also considering opening more clinics and hastening the completionof new facilities such as those at the Alajuela Hospital, northwest of San José.

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