German Embassy says tourist lost arm unnecessarily

Map shows key points in the 12-hour medical
odyssey of injured German tourist.

The German government has called for an investigation by Costa Rica officials of the case of a young accident victim who had to have her arm amputated after a quadracycle accident on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

In a formal note to the foreign ministry, the German Embassy here recounted delays in getting the woman adequate medical attention and said that it would warn other Germans about the state of medical services here.

The embassy said it already investigated the Dec. 14 afternoon mishap involving Evelyn Jürgensen, 23, and concluded that private medical providers in Santa Teresa were more interested in getting an $8,000 payment than securing an ambulance flight for the injured woman. Emergency helicopter flights cost significantly less, said the embassy in its letter.

The embassy said it was not a mere suspicion that emergency workers tried to take advantage of the situation and “it is a sad certainty that the young German tourist had lost her right arm needlessly.”

The incident began when the woman’s boyfriend, identified as Lennart Leopold, rolled the quadracycle, and Ms. Jürgensen suffered multiple fractures when the vehicle landed on her upper right arm, said the embassy, giving this version of what happened:

A doctor and a nurse at the Emergencias Malpaís, Clinica Médica in Santa Teresa cleaned the wounds and applied bandages. But because the arm was turning purple, residents there suggested an air ambulance flight to San José. After a discussion about costs, a doctor said that a helicopter was coming. After about two hours in the clinic, the woman was placed in an ambulance for a trip to Tambor, where there is an airfield.

During the ambulance ride, the German tourists were told they would have to go to the home of a clinic office worker to charge the young man’s credit card for $8,000. He agreed, but when the charge was run, the card company declined the payment due to the amount and for security considerations.

“The additional stop in the home of the office worker cost the unnecessary loss of valuable time,” said the embassy note, adding additional detail:

After the charge was declined, the ambulance took the woman to the public clinic, the ebias, in Cóbano. After medical personnel there looked at the wounds, the two tourists were taken by ambulance to Paquera and in a launch across the gulf of Nicoya to Puntarenas where another ambulance took them to Hospital Monseñor Sanabria, a public facility.

Physicians there said what needed to be done could not be done in Puntarenas and sent the pair to San José by ambulance.

The woman arrived at Hospital México by land at 5:45 a.m., some 12 hours after the accident, and physicians there said had she arrived just two hours earlier they may have been able to save the arm, the embassy said. The arm was amputated at the shoulder.

The embassy said that the unnecessary loss of the young woman’s arm was reason to increase the travel warnings given to German tourists.

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