Throughout most of Mexico, the Red Cross plays a major role in the delivery of emergency health care, providing free ambulance service to more than 1.3 million people every year, according to figures published by the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.
It is estimated that Red Cross ambulances respond to eight out of every 10 emergency calls — unless you live in Cabo San Lucas.
For 25 days, the Red Cross branch in this popular tourist (and expat) destination in Baja California Sur had no ambulance at all, a need that was filled last Saturday when the neighboring community of San José del Cabo offered a loaner.
This is absurd, considering that Cabo San Lucas boasts dozens of World Class Resorts and 5 Star Hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping areas, entertainment centers, etc., and a population of approximately 70,000.
The information came to light last Thursday July 16th, when the emergency coordinator of Cabo’s Red Cross station resigned his post and told reporters the institution was facing a crisis.
Juan Gabriel Ramírez Soto said it made no sense to carry on because without ambulances the service can do nothing to assist in emergency situations. He said it wasn’t the first time they had been short of vehicles, but it was the first time this situation reached the media.
Ramírez Soto said volunteers are leaving the organization too, because they have no reason to stay if there is not even one ambulance.
The local fire department and private ambulances are filling in for the Red Cross, but it’s not sufficient, said Fire Chief José Ramón Ledesma, and predicted that citizens will suffer as a result.
“Because we’re in a tourist area we have vehicle accident injuries and alcohol-related accidents, such as those with the spring breakers who don’t measure their consumption and get into accidents.”
Red Cross data collected over the 25 days during which it had no ambulance indicate there were 125 trauma-related calls which it could not attend.
But the situation isn’t as serious as others make it, according to the local Red Cross president, who said ambulance vehicles were being repaired.
“The Red Cross is not in crisis. What’s happening is that the ambulances have been taken away for repairs because they had not been properly maintained,” said Octavio Nieto, who also claimed that there had been poor management over the previous two years, leaving outstanding debts of 250,000 pesos.
Meanwhile, outside the Red Cross offices sit two dust-covered ambulance vehicles, their tires flat or nearly so, their interiors a storage closet for brooms and cleaning supplies.