Caja Demands Constructor Fix Hospital Problems

February 18, 2005

FOUR months after it was inaugurated,the $36 million Hospital San Rafael deAlajuela, in Alajuela, west of San José, isbreaking down, says the government.Officials are asking the builder to fix themany problems they say they’ve encountered,or face the consequences.Leaks, poorly fitted doors and problemswith the equipment, especially theodor extractors and air circulation in thenutrition section and toilets that don’tflush properly, are among the problemsofficials say plague the new building, thedaily La Prensa Libre reported.The Social Security System (Caja),the government institution that managesthe nation’s public hospitals, gave theSpanish-owned international constructioncompany Obrascón Huarte Lain S.A.,eight days to hand over a schedule detailingwhen it will repair problems and fixor replace the malfunctioning equipment.The compliance period ends Sunday.The schedule, the Caja stipulated,must outline the money, people and timeneeded to finish the job.If the Spanish company does not comply,Caja authorities said they may takelegal action.President Abel Pacheco addressed theissue with a measure of indignation at hisCabinet meeting this week.“If there are problems we will act withall the weight of the law,” he said. “Wewill conduct a meticulous investigation.”Eva Rodríguez, director of the company’spublic relations firm in Spain, toldThe Tico Times on Wednesday that shehad only just heard of the issue and hadno information at the time. She did notrespond to questions by press time.The problems are serious but fixable,according to Israel Moya, assistant directorof Caja operations.“Regardless, the Caja’s concern iscentered on the reports of failures in someof the equipment, particularly because youcan’t put the patients at risk,” Moya said.Obrascón Huarte Lain S.A. operatesextensively throughout the world, and iscurrently engaged in construction projectsin 17 countries.The new hospital in Alajuela is ablend of function and aesthetics, the companywrote in an article published on theCosta Rican Construction Chamber’s Website before the problems were made public.It is wired to an emergency powerplant and back-up generators, fed alternativewater supplies, and is designed toresist earthquakes, the company wrote.

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