During their working visit to Bonaire and Curaçao from Thursday, November 17 to Wednesday, November 23, Saba Island Council Members Carl Buncamper and Vito Charles visited Bonaire’s Mariadal Hospital and the Curaçao Medical Center (CMC).
Accompanied by Island Council Registrar Akilah Levenstone, Buncamper and Charles traveled to Bonaire right after attending the November 16 Statia Day festivities and taking part in a number of meetings in St. Eustatius.
On Friday, November 18, the day before the Island Council training, the Island Council Members and Registrar visited the Mariadal Foundation where the director gave the delegation a tour of the hospital. During a meeting afterward, the director gave an overview of the developments at the hospital, the improvements that have been made over the years and the challenges that the hospital had to overcome.
Bonaire’s Mariadal hospital has expanded significantly in the past years, not only physically, but also in terms of staff and the number of specialisms. For example, until a number of years ago, kidney patients from Bonaire had to undergo dialysis in Curaçao. Dialysis can now take place on Bonaire. Also, more types of surgeries can be performed, and the hospital has its ophthalmology center. The close working relationship with the Amsterdam UMC hospital and the related deployment of medical staff has many benefits for patients.
Because the Bonaire hospital is a referral hospital for Saba patients, the delegation wanted to get a first-hand impression of how the institution has developed and what kind of medical care is being offered, explained Charles. “The visit was eye-opening, refreshing. The Bonaire hospital is far ahead with improvements and has made signification strides to bring care to a higher standard,” said Buncamper.
Considering the large expenditures associated with referrals to medical institutions abroad, it is worthwhile to invest in and upgrade regional facilities since this leads to considerable savings, said Buncamper. Both he and Charles mentioned the benefits of the recently established Dutch Caribbean Hospital Alliance (DCHA).
The delegation was also impressed with Curaçao’s CMC hospital which was visited on Tuesday, November 22. “It is a state-of-the-art, very modern building,” said Charles. The delegation met with a number of managers who gave an explanation about the improved and expanded services, the transition from the old Sehos hospital to the CMC and the current financial challenges.
One of the major trajectories that the CMC works on is to treat more regional patients at its specialized units, for example in neonatal care and children’s oncology. Having more in-house specialisms also means that fewer patients from Curaçao have to be referred abroad for certain care. The CMC sometimes serves as a referral hospital for Saba patients.
“The CMC is looking at catering more to the region. I feel that we are currently underutilizing the services that the CMC offers. I hope that our visit will open the door for discussions about more referrals to the CMC, because the best patient care for Sabans is first and foremost,” said Buncamper.
Charles and Buncamper said they were impressed with CMC’s capacity and a coordinating unit which keeps a keen eye on the availability of specialists and waiting times/list to receive specialist care, which is beneficial for referrals. Buncamper said it was obvious that quality and timely care was very important for this hospital. A special addition to the CMC is the Ronald McDonald House, one of the two in the Caribbean, where parents of young patients can stay while their child is under hospital care.
Looking back at the visit to the hospital in Bonaire and Curaçao, Charles said: “It is very good to see that the hospitals on both islands are improving and that sizable investments were made to ensure the best healthcare. I would like to see a further intensification of healthcare in the region, which is also in the best interest of the Saba patients.”
While in Curaçao, the delegation also paid a courtesy visit to the Curaçao Parliament.