Chinese hospital ship leaves as strike continues

The floating Chinese hospital boat that was docked in Puntarenas may have set sail for China at the time it was most needed, leaving in its wake a country unable to provide public health care for its own citizens.

According to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, in total, the 23 Chinese health care specialists onboard the boat administered thousands of consultations, laboratory tests, ultrasounds, surgeries, colonoscopies, x-rays, acupuncture and other procedures in the five days the vessel docked in Puntarenas to provide health care to Costa Ricans.

Meanwhile Costa Rican public health care workers are at odds with the government over their working conditions. As a result, thousands of surgeries and medical appointments stand, backlogged, in a state of limbo. And now doctors and nurses are demonstrating solidarity with the anesthesiologists on strike. A major rally is planned for today.

To fix the crisis, President Laura Chinchilla said she tried approaching the private sector health care workers and those from México for help, but they declined to intervene in the labor matter. Unable to resolve the matter, she pointed the finger back at the disobedient public servants.

“They are the ones who need to explain themselves to the country,” Ms. Chinchilla said about the Costa Rican health care workers at a press conference Thursday. “Where has the country’s ethics gone?”

China, on the other hand, through its floating hospital has been on a recent tour of the region, stopping in other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba and now Costa Rica and providing its sharing, its perceived surplus of health care with the Caribbean.

The goal was to help approximately 500 patients in Costa Rica, according to a press release by Casa Presidencial.

The state-of-the-art boat is 178 meters long, equipped with over 300 beds and 2,400 medical instruments. The boat has an estimated value of $110 million dollars and has been in service providing health care to various places since 2008. The current mission is called “Mission Harmony 2011.”

Health care workers could not reach an agreement Thursday night with the Caja and will continue talks in the morning.

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