According to families and corroborated by owners private ambulance services, several private clinics in Costa Rica are transferring their deceased patients to state hospitals and clinics, to evade the responsibilities of malpractice or negligence.

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José Alberto Castro spoke to the La Prensa Libre of the case of his wife../Foto: Tony Guerrero

José Alberto Castro, a resident of Santa Teresita de Aserrí, told LA PRENSA LIBRE, this unfortunately happened to his wife, Jenny Borbón, who he took to a private clinic complaining of abdominal pain.

Castro, in his narration to the PRENSA  said, “my wife was diagnosed with colitis and an hour after being injected with a serum and lying in bed she went into convulsions and suffered a heart attack.”

Castro added that his wife was never intubated, they (the private clinic) had a fibrilator, but it was never used. They called a private ambulance service that arrived on the scene 22 minutes later, when there was nothing more as his wife was already dead.

“The clinic asked the ambulance attendants to transfer my wife to the Hospital San Juan de Dios (HSJD), but they objected”, said Castro.

Although the name of the clinic is being withheld pending litigation, Castro is feeling what many fell daily, the frustration of losing a loved one, but more the “in humane” attention by private clinics who “don’t even have an ambulance”.

Castro, like many others choose a private clinic or hospital over one run by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), to avoid the lines and for what is believed to be better service.

The man who lost his wife  will not let her death go unnoticed. He filed a complaint with the  Ministerio Público and is waiting on the Medicatura Forense (Coroner) to determine the cause of death.

In his search for answers – and justice – Castro found that his ordeal is not all that uncommon, more and more private clinics are a “deception”, only concerned on charging fees and not providing proper medical care. ”

Castro also learned from the owner of the private ambulance service that they receive frequently similar calls from private clinics, asked to take patients to the San Juan de Dios and Calderon Guardia hospitals (both in downtown San José).

Speaking to the LA PRENSA LIBRE, the owner of the ambulance service said he could not talk much about the problem, but did confirm that on that day in September he did get a request and objected to move the dead woman to a state hospital.

What Castro found and so did the PRENSA LIBRE in their investigation, is a wall where no one is unwilling to talk about the problem.  Dr. Miguel Villalobos, jefe del Servicio de Emergencias del San Juan de Dios, told the PRENSA (by way of the hospital’s press office) that he is unaware if patients are sent to the hospital already deceased.

“We would report it immediately, what we know is that we oftern receive patients in critical condition, as private hospitals and clincis often do not have the equipment or personnel necessary for the interventions”, was the response by Dr. Villalobos.

For her part, Ofelia Taitelbaum, the defensora de los Habitantes (Ombudsman), assures that this a “serious” problem and that her office cannot act against private business and that the families must file charges with the Ministerio de Salud and the Colegio de Médicos  (Ministry of Health and Medical Board), and only then can they get involved.


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