Hospitals Struggle with Saline Solution Crisis

December 2, 2005

COSTA Rica’s two main public hospitals,Hospital México and HospitalCalderón Guardia, both in downtown SanJosé, suspended most of their surgerieslast week because of a fuel spill in thetwo wells used to produce 80% of thesaline solution supply for the country’spublic hospitals, newswire ACAN-EFEreported. Hospitals received saline solutionthis week after a few delays, thougha shortage continues.Gabriela Murillo, chief of operationsfor the Social Security System (Caja), toldthe daily La Nación that the Caja instructedhospitals to practice only emergency orhighly necessary surgeries. According toMurillo, production of solution remainedsuspended for more than a week because itwas necessary to wash the pipes and equipmentfrom the laboratory that produces thesolution, located in San Antonio de Belén,northwest of San José.Hospital México was forced to suspendsome 400 surgeries since Nov. 25,Channel 7 News reported yesterday. AtHospital Calderón Guardia, 80 surgerieswere suspended between last Friday andMonday.To work through the emergency, theCaja obtained 23,000 bags of saline solutionfrom Mexico over the weekend; however,these were held up at customs becauseof a contract problem and remainedthere on Monday, La Nación reported.On Wednesday the laboratory restartedits regular distribution of the solutionto hospitals with 25,415 units, plus theshipment that was eventually releasedfrom customs, along with another fromGuatemala.However, Hospital México directorJosé Enrique Mangel told Channel 7 thatthe hospital, which uses approximately300 liters of solution per day, still suffersa shortage.The Caja requires some 20,000 bagsof saline solution per day, 16,000 ofwhich are produced at the Belén laboratory.Baxter Laboratory produces the rest,according to ACAN-EFE.

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