The local president of the Cruz Roja said that rescue personnel were not aggressive in trying to save the life of a surf victim a week ago because officials already had decided that the man was not going to survive.
The local president, a volunteer, is Maycol Morales Pita. He said he was very concerned with what happened Aug. 15 at Punta Uva. He spoke to a reporter at the local headquarters in BriBri. The area is on the Caribbean coast in southeast Costa Rica.
Dead is Oscar Mora Muñoz, 49, who got in trouble while snorkeling. Witnesses complainedthat the Cruz Roja needed two telephone calls to dispatch an ambulance and that once the ambulance arrived, rescue workers did not approach the victim for some 20 minutes. Local individuals were working to revive the man.
Morales said that the reason why the first ambulance driver wasn’t aggressive about lifesaving efforts was because dispatchers and those at the central office had already decided that the man wasn’t going to survive. He said the headquarters personnel computed the time the man was in the water, added information that his lungs probably were filled with water and decided that trying to bring him back to life would be worse.
According to resident David Gudiel, when the ambulance arrived, the driver parked at the end of the road near the beach. He said he ran to the ambulance for the purpose of directing it to where the victim lay. He told the driver that the man was still alive and asked him to please hurry. But the ambulance driver said he was waiting for someone from Puerto Viejo to arrive. When a police officer from Puerto Viejo did arrive, he and the driver remained near the ambulance for about 20 more minutes, talking, according to Gudiel.
Mora had been helped ashore by two U.S. tourists and Aventuras Punta Uva kayakers. Gudiel’s brother, Roger, who was trying to resuscitate the man, said the victim still had a pulse. The brother is certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Eventually the ambulance crew attempted to resuscitate the man for about 10 minutes before deciding that he was dead.
Morales of the Cruz Roja said that the rescue agency’s ambulances just have what he called basic support and only one has advanced technology. That ambulance was not available to take the first call Aug. 15, he said. The ambulance that arrived first had only basic support, and the driver just had basic training, he added. About 80 percent of the Cruz Roja workers are volunteers, said Morales.
The advanced equipment requires a trained medic to use it, said the Cruz Roja president, adding that the medic was not available as a first responder and came on a later ambulance. Eventually more ambulances arrived. One had a trained medic and another carried a doctor, said Morales.
By that time the victim clearly was dead. The fire truck was dispatched because it is equipped for severe rescue situations.
Morales outlined what he characterized as the logistical dilemma of the Cruz Roja in providing services to Talamanca.
Talamanca is a large region, and it is also the country’s poorest region. The Cruz Roja provides all medical services to the poorest who live in the mountains near BriBri, he said. The rescue agency serves more as a mobile health clinic, which uses up too much time and resources, he explained.
The agency simply is spread too thin to be able to handle both a poor, needy population and the tourist beach areas, said Morales.