San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Caja Negotiates with Families Of Hospital Fire Victims

Officials with Costa Rica’s Social Security System (Caja) might offer as much as ¢100 million ($195,000) to the families of those who died in the 2005 fire at the Calderón Guardia Hospital, in San José, the daily La Nación reported this week.

Nineteen people died in the fire, including three nurses. Many have blamed a lack of safety measures at the hospital for the deaths, and repeated warnings about fire safety from the Firefighters Corps to the hospital appear to have gone unheeded over more than 10 years (TT, July 15, 2005).

The Caja has declined to reveal details of the negotiations, but most of the families have said they would be willing to settle out of court to avoid the drawn-out proceedings, the daily said.

Only two families have refused to negotiate, one being that of 16-year-old Alfonso Pérez, who died in the blaze.

“I do not agree with them using the money of the Costa Rican people to hide the irregularities that were and still are in the hospitals,” the boy’s father, also named Alfonso Pérez, told the daily.

The actual amount of each family’s settlement will depend on various factors, including the victim’s age, income and health, and ranges from ¢15 million ($29,182) to ¢100 million.

Meanwhile, the trial against the former nurse suspected of intentionally starting the fire – identified by the Judicial Branch by the last name Ledezma – is under way.


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