Limón Red Cross Threatens Closure This Month

September 24, 2004

CITING serious financial difficulties,officials from the Limón Red Crossannounced this week they will stop providingambulance and emergency services inthe capital of the Caribbean province at theend of the month.The Limón chapter has not receivedsufficient support, despite requests, fromarea businesses, residents and government,on which local Red Cross chapters aredependent, according to Walter Zarate,Red Cross administrator in Limón.In addition to ambulance and emergencymedical services, the chapter servesthe port city’s 90,000 residents with searchand rescue in the mountains, rivers andocean and community training programsfor public health issues such as AIDS. Sixfull-time employees operate the LimónRed Cross, with the help of 32 volunteers.“WE cover a large territory with alarge population,” Zarate said.If the Limón chapter closes, the closestRed Cross facilities would be 40 minutessouth in Valle de Estrella or 40 minutesnorthwest in Batán.The Limón Red Cross has a ¢33 million($74,000) debt, accumulated afteryears of donations not large enough tomeet its payroll and insurance expenses forits two ambulances.In order to offer basic services, thechapter needs an annual budget of ¢33.6million ($75,000). In 2003, the chapterreceived ¢15 million ($33,600) in fundsand in 2004, ¢11 million ($24,600).Approximately 35% of the Limón RedCross budget comes from the government.In addition, the chapter receives about ¢2million ($4,500) annually from TicoBingo, a national fundraiser held fourtimes a year for the Red Cross.EXACERBATING the problems inthe Limón Red Cross are infrastructureproblems within the chapter’s facilities,including building and roof damage andelectrical problems. The organization’sambulances have mechanical problems,according to a half-page ad the Limón RedCross took out in the daily La Nación,requesting help.The Limón Red Cross has been infinancial straits before, most recently threeyears ago, when government interventionprevented its closure, according to Zarate.He said officials are again talking with theLimón Municipality and area businessesabout the possibility of assistance.The Limón Chamber of Commerce isready to help the Red Cross, according tochamber president Olman Barboca, butofficials want the chapter to present a businessand work plan for the coming yearsbefore they determine how to help.“LIKE anywhere, (the Red Cross) is avery important institution here in Limón.But we want to know that we are not goingto have these problems again next year,” hesaid. “We want a permanent solution, not atemporary one.”In the first eight months of this year,the Red Cross in Limón has worked on2,402 cases, logging 58,000 kilometers(36,000 miles) in their ambulances.Volunteers attended to 171 people whowere hit by cars, 196 collisions, and 59vehicles that rolled over.Costa Rica has 119 Red Cross chapters.

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