Plan for children’s hospital expansion moves forward

Sketch of what the finished Torre de Esperanza may look like

Health officials took another step Wednesday to build an $80 million critical care facility for sick children.

The project will be between the existing Hospital de Niños and Paseo Colón in San José. Hospital officials have been trying to get the project going since at least 2006.  The site now contains lawn, bushes and the famous hospital Christmas tree.

What happened Wednesday was the creation of a mechanism that will handle the money for design and construction. Banco Nacional replaces the Banco de Costa Rica, which had assumed the job earlier.

The money for the trust will come from the Asociación pro Hospital Nacional de Niños, which has been seeking donations for the project.

Now the association will be the recipient of government money from the Fondo de Bienestar Social y Asignaciones Familiares.

The Fondo gets its money from the monthly contributions of workers and employers that are paid to the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social.  A law passed at the end of 2009 designated a 0.78 percent of the money from the fund for the use of the association and ultimately for construction.

The $80 million figure includes design, construction and equipping the facility, which is under the jurisdiction of the Caja. Hospital officials have complained of waiting lists for elective surgery and other procedures.

The Hospital de Niños is considered among the best pediatric institutions in the Americas. The building is being called the Torre de la Esperanza, the “tower of hope.”

The agreement approved Wednesday creates what is known as a fideicomiso, basically a trust, whereby Banco Nacional will handle the money given it by the association for the benefit of the hospital.

The Hospital de Niños went into operation in 1964. Donations in the United States can be made to the Children’s Hospital Costa Rica Foundation.

Plans are still not fixed for the new hospital tower, but previous proposals included a helicopter landing pad. Now children brought in by aircraft are transported by ambulance from one of the two Central Valley airfields. Transporting critically injured or seriously ill youngsters and adults frequently falls to the security ministry air wing.

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