Public health officials at Caja have had a bad day

More problem surfaced Wednesday with the nation’s public heath provider.

This is the system that legal expats are required to join, although many prefer to obtain medical services elsewhere.

The agency, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, has long been criticized for long waits, incorrect diagnoses, high fees for expats and delayed appointments.

But Wednesday the case of a woman who believes her baby, one of twins, was stolen at birth, gained new life. And the Sala IV constitutional court intervened in another case to tell the Caja that a patient needing a hip operation should not have to wait until 2021.

The new mother came into the news Friday when she said that despite ultrasound exams that showed twins physicians told her she delivered but one baby at Hospital San Juan de Dios. She was dismissed by many as a woman under stress after a delivery, but her husband filed a formal complaint, and judicial investigators looked into the case.

The couple, Leidy Ureña López and Carlos Amador, received some support for their claims Wednesday when the Judicial Investigating Organization said that a mysterious death certificate turned up for the presumed twin. The certificate was mysterious because it was issued in the name of the Hospital del Niños and not San Juan de Dios, and there is no infant body.

Hospital officials say that another hospital cannot certify what takes place at a different institution.

Supervisors at San Juan de Dios originally said that security was so tight that the theft of a baby was impossible. They also said that the ultrasound was interpreted badly.

Baby thefts are not unusual at Latin American hospitals, but not in Costa Rica. Officials in Guatemala reported more than 20 such cases in 2013. Infants are highly sought in the black market adoption trade.

Although the case of the baby still is wrapped in mystery, the patient who got an appointment for an operation six years in the future has been resolved. The Sala IV ordered the medical staff at Hospital Calderón Guardia to perform the hip operation in April. The patient was not identified in a summary of the decision released Wednesday. The summary said that the patient was in pain and that medicines were having no effect. The court said the situation affected the patient’s quality of life.

The summary called the long wait for an operation disproportionate and unreasonable and rejected the hospital’s argument that the surgery was not urgent.

Periodically cases of prolonged waits for medical procedures surface, and the court intervenes frequently. In one case that generated publicity a pregnant woman received an appointment for ultrasound 10 months in the future.

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