San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hospital Damage Estimates Reach $20 Million

It will take $20 million to repair thedamage done by a fire that raged throughHospital Calderón Guardia last month,killing 19 people, Alberto Saénz, executivedirector of the Social SecuritySystem (Caja), announced yesterday.Most of these funds – approximately$17 million – will come from $37 millionthat has been sitting unused, intended forthe construction of a world-class cancerinstitute.Leaders explained that the tragic circumstancesof the fire, which took placeJuly 12, require leaders to use the cancerinstitute funds, which were collectedfrom a special lottery tax, according tothe wire service EFE. The institute willnow be part of the rebuilt CalderónGuardia.The most immediate goal is to get thehospital, located in central San José,returned to near capacity as best as possible,Saénz said. Over the next fourmonths, the first two phases will takeplace – demolishing the destroyed part ofthe building and making repairs toreestablish services in the north wing.“By the end of the year, basic serviceswill be restored,” said Luis DiegoMorales, head of the National EmergencyCommission (CNE).Reconstruction of the demolishedportion of the hospital will take morethan a year and will not begin until 2006,he said.A cancer center will be established inthe rebuilt building, leaders explained.Originally envisioned as a world-classhospital, the cancer institute was downgradedto a cancer diagnosis center lastyear, with hopes it would evolve into ahospital (TT, July 23, 2004).Public Health Minister Rocío Saénzsaid that including the cancer institute inthe rebuilt Calderón Guardia is in fulllegal compliance with the law.The remainder of the $37 million incancer funds will be used for humanresources, cancer programs in other hospitalsand cancer awareness programs.Additional funds to the $17 millionfrom the cancer institute, funds torebuild Hospital Calderón Guardia willcome from other government institutions.Firefighters could not find evidence atCalderón Guardia pointing to arson,according to the daily La Nación.However, authorities are still examiningwhether the fire was intentional, accidentalor caused naturally.

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