Published On: Mon, Oct 26th, 2015

Medical specialist shortage in Curaçao? An Opinion

Sint Elizabeth HospitalOver the course of the last three months, since I opened my business in Curaao in June, every morning I look at Curacaoan newspapers just to get a glimpse of what's happening every day on the island and be aware of the latest news. It also helps me practice my English reading skills and also to learn some Papiamento.
This week I was amazed to see two articles in two different newspapers regarding the shortage of medical specialists on the island (and in my opinion, in all of the Caribbean part of the kingdom). When I read them, I see that the most senior doctors from associations or even SEHOS (hospital) execs submit these articles in the midst of desperation to resolve the issue as soon as possible so the people of Curaçao will be better served in terms of health and the quality of life it brings. Even the Medical Specialists Association has some idea on what is needed (on a presentation from Dr. Abbad).
Although I was unable to find detailed data available online, the need is clear. When you ask anyone on the island how long it takes them to get medical attention, they would easily tell you around 2-3 months for an appointment. I only asked for pediatricians since that is the specialty I was looking into.
Both articles were very explicit as of the current shortage, however, none specify which specialties are actually needed. Perhaps someone, somewhere is looking through the internet and might find the opening and apply right?
But the example I have today is that of my own wife. A Doctor graduated with honors from UCLA in Venezuela with a double specialization in Pediatrics and Child Nephrology - although with 5 years experience, she has shadowed the most respected Child Nephrologyst in the city-. So in this case this a doctor who graduated  Cum-Laude, with two specialties (one with very high demand -pediatrics) that is readily available to serve the community as my business begins to flourish and we explore the possibility of settling in Curaçao.
So the story begins with discussions with the Health Ministry where we were wonderfully treated by the employees and we were directed to SEHOS. The direction was "If SEHOS needs you and you're ready to comply with the local regulations, we will do everything within our reach to get you authorized to practice medicine in Curaçao.
So far so good. We head over to SEHOS and talk to the exec assistant to the Hospital Director, who in turn gave us some names of people we should send a presentation letter and a resume. We did and we got an email from SEHOS Human Resources saying that the resume was being reviewed and an interview would be arranged if there was a position open. During my latest trip to Curaçao, I spoke to one of the human resources coordinators, who clearly stated the need for that specialty given the sudden passing of Dr. Abbad, the only child nephrologyst on the island.
Still, the one month timeline passed and there was no answer from HR.
Is Curaçao really ready for an inflow of specialists in the areas of dire need for the people? Is it clear that the specialists will not come from the island right now?
As all of this goes on, I talk to the employees of my company in Curaçao and ask them if it easy to get an appointment for a pediatrics consultation. The answer is no, it takes some time. So I ask myself, what on earth?! Is it because we're Venezuelans?, is it because we only speak English and Spanish? Is it because there has been a recent increase in criminal activities on the island and it is attributed to Venezuelan immigrants? The question list goes on and on.
In the end, I hope this story encourages those responsible for the healthcare of the people of this island to take real definitive action on the medical specialists issue in which there is a real priority and an expedited resolution is found for those interested in filling the vacancies needed. The People of Curaçao will benefit greatly.
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Disagreements? drop me a line at
Miguel A. Vecchionacce

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