If Costa Rica is touted as a destination for adventure then has an obligation to provide security . The German Embassy in San José has exacerbated travel warnings to German tourists vacationing in Costa Rica, following an accident by a German couple in Cóbano and the alleged misconduct by a local private doctor that led to the loss of an arm by one of them.
According to a German Embassy document (Nota-Verbal-11-Embajada-de-Alemania-1) dated December 14, 2012, addressed to the Ministerio de Relaciones Esteriors y Culto (Foreign Ministry), German officials express heir concern of the quality and access to private medical services in the country.
The letter tells the tale of 23 year old Evelyn Jürgensen who suffered an ATV accident while vacationing in Santa Teresa de Cóbano, on the Pacific coast.
The young lady suffered multiple fractures and was taken to a private area clinic, where the doctor decided that considering the extent of the injury she should be sent to San José, but only “after long discussions about who would bear the costs of the helicopter”.
The letter continues, as they headed to Playa Tambor (the local airport) the doctor informed the young coupe that the helicopter would not be coming since the credit charge for US$8.000 had been denied.
Jürgensen was thus taken to the Ebais de Cóbano (local state clinic), where she was treated and sent to Paquera and onto the hospital in Puntarenas and the onto San José, when the Puntarens hospital doctors could not perform the required surgery.
Twelve hours had passed since the accident and doctors in San José could save the girls arm, requiring an amputation.
Attending physicians at the Hospital México commented “if only the patient had arrived two hours earlier, it could have been possible to save the arm”.
Following up on the German Embassy letter are the disturbing facts.
One, the cost of a helicopter from Tambor to San José is between US$2.500 and US$3.500, depending on the aircraft and when adding US$500 professional fees, how did the local doctor come up US$8.000? Was this a case of lets get what we can given the predicament of the visitors?
And, two, in a medical emergency, such as the case as related by the Embassy, the medical professional deserved the greatest balme for violating the basic principles of medicine and the Hippocratic Oath.
Here is a situation of visitors being in the middle of nowhere, in the jungles of Costa Rica and requiring urgent medical attention.
While the Tourism Ministry promotes the country as a destination for adventure, must it not also provide safety for visitors and ensure they not become mere objects of profit and misfortune?
In the case of Jürgensen, had not the medical professional been concerned with profit and over billing, the couple could have travelled by land and obtain the proper medical attention and in time to save the arm, as the San José doctors confirmed.
If nothing more, the relevant authorities should investigate the incident reported and establish liability and in favour of the country’s tourism image and the highest human values that distinguishes us.