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Poor Medical Care Causes Tourist to Lose Arm

Costa Rica News – I had the experience of going through the Costa Rican public health system first hand and survived.  I am very thankful for everything they did to save my life, but from talking about my experience to others I am more the exception than the rule. 

costa rica medical careThis latest story does not surprise me at all and should not deter people from visiting Costa Rica but they should always have it in the back of their minds if they are planning to participate in activities which can be considered dangerous.

The German Embassy has stated the delays in receiving healthcare for a German tourist in Costa Rica caused her to suffer the amputation of her right arm.

The embassy made ​​the claim on February 4th in a note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica , saying the Malpais-Santa Teresa Medical Clinic failed to care provide appropriate medical care to the tourist.

The incident  occurred on December 14th, 2012, when the German Evelyn Jurgensen, 23 years old, was vacationing in Santa Teresa de Cóbano, Puntarenas.

According to the note, the girl and her boyfriend had an accident on an ATV and she suffered “multiple open fractures.”

For this reason, the tourists were moved into private clinic where they were attended to by a doctor and a nurse. However, she needed to be moved to San Jose in treat the injuries.

The German Embassy said the Malpais Emergency asked for $8,000 for transport by helicopter, but the girl’s boyfriend’s credit card was rejected, so two hours later, they were taken to Ebais Cóbano.

(Then) the two tourists were taken in another ambulance to Paquera, and from there in a boat ambulance to Puntarenas (…). After another ambulance, the young girl finally arrived on December 15th, at approximately 5:45 am, at Hospital Mexico in San Jose, “the letter said.

The Embassy noted because it had been 12 hours they were unable to save the limb. “The physicians explained the open fracture was not cleaned properly and professionally, but even if it had been and  they had arrived just two hours earlier, it would have been possible to save the arm”

For me I know how difficult it can be to get to the hospital in Costa Rica that specializes in treating specific injuries. I sat on the side of the road with a blood clot for almost 2 hours while waiting for an ambulance to come.  Upon arrival they took me to the Alajuela hospital because that was the closest. After 3 hours there and waiting they told me that they do not treat that there and I was transferred to Hospital Mexico.  It was almost 8 hours before I was treated for a clot that was blocking circulation to my leg.  I was lucky to keep the limb and to live.

Many times the people that are treat you be in the red cross ambulance drivers (which are no more than glorified taxis) or the mom and pop clinics in these areas, they are not equipped or have the experience to treat most serve injuries. If you are traveling in a remote area of Costa Rica and plan on partaking in risky activities then it might be a good idea to get insurance that covers life flight.

Although doctor’s are supposed to follow the Hippocratic Oath and do no harm, sometimes they just do not know what to do.  Accidents do happen and make sure you think about where you are and what you are doing and plan for the worst.

My heart does go out to this girl and I am not going to point fingers at anyone as the situation is tragic and something needs to change when it comes to the logistics of getting people from remote areas to treatment centers.  This is important for locals and tourists.

A list of medical evacuation and travel insurance companies is on the website of the US State Department (


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