On the hot, dusty Highway 21 west of Liberia, a lonely sign sits in an empty lot. “Coming soon,” it reads, “a new state-of the-art hospital and medical center.”
Despite telling The Tico Times in December that construction of the CIMA Hospital Guanacaste would begin in January (TT, Dec. 5, 2008), developers of the Pacific Plaza Health and Living project say everything is still going according to plan.
“Our schedule has always been to dedicate 2009 to financing, design and applying for permits,” with the goal “to begin construction at the end of this year or the beginning of 2010,” said PacificPlaza developer Lou Aguilera.
Based on progress since December, he said, construction will likely begin in the first quarter of 2010, with phase one of the development set for completion in early 2011.
Along with the hospital, the project will include medical practice offices, a commercial area with restaurants and an apartment-hotel, all aimed to attract both local residents and foreigners interested in Costa Rica’s burgeoning medical tourism industry. With a $30 million initial investment for the first phase of development, PacificPlaza’s principals are confident that medical tourism will weather the recent economic storm.
“In times of economic adjustment, people tend to postpone sumptuary expenses, but health care is a basic need,” Aguilera said. “Moreover, one aspect of the market we have seen is that medical tourism possibly may grow as a result of the crisis, as more people take advantage of the differences in cost between medicine in the United States and Costa Rica.”
Costa Rica Medical Holding, the country’s first medical tourism consortium, estimates that 40,000 North Americans will visit Costa Rica for medical procedures in 2010.
Pacific Plaza plans to offer units with one or two rooms with complete kitchens for stays up to five days long. The hospital itself will be about 20,000 square meters in size, with a 24-hour emergency room. It will also include surgery and recovery rooms, an X-ray facility and additional rooms for diagnosis and specialty procedures.
In addition to providing a link with the ostensibly recession-proof medical tourism industry, developers said the project will also contribute a much-needed boost to the job market in Guanacaste. Aguilera projected that, both directly and indirectly, the hospital, medical offices, hotel and various businesses will create between 800 and 1,000 jobs.
CIMA hospitals are part of International Hospital Corp., a Dutch company that has numerous high-end medical centers throughout Latin America, including the CIMAHospital in the western San José suburb of Escazú.