The new Curaçao Medical Centre – in operation since November 2019 – means a great improvement for the care on Curaçao and the entire Caribbean region. An immense leap has been made from a 164-year-old, to a state-of-the-art hospital. Architects from OZ and EGM joined together to design the Medical Centre (CMC). The image of healthcare on Curaçao as being backward, certainly deserves to be changed after the opening of the hospital: the CMC has the most modern equipment and meets international standards. A special feature of the design is that it fits within the given climate and culture. The hospital therefore allows both staff and patients to feel at home. Physical and mental comfort serves to work on recovery. Residents of the (Dutch Caribbean) also receive care here. OZ-architects Chris Zwiers and Lyongo Juliana proudly talk about the design and what it can mean for the users. CMC director Gilbert Martina tells how his staff and patients experience the hospital.
It has been a long road leading up to the new CMC. The previous hospital had already been in operation for 164 years and was very outdated. The first reports of the desire to build a new hospital date back to 1963. The Curaçao government wants to realise a new hospital at the level of international standards and the government commissioned the Netherlands Antilles Development Foundation (USONA) to develop an operational hospital for them. The assignment consisted of the building realisation, furnishing and training of the personnel with the aim of creating a state-of-the-art hospital. Following the market consultation in 2011, Ballast Nedam was informed by OZ that this development was coming. OZ has 25 years of experience in building on Curacao and in the tropics. EGM Architects was asked because of their extensive hospital expertise,” says Juliana. OZ and EGM jointly developed a concept proposal for the mass construction of the hospital. The urban task – which also included the hospital being built within a UNESCO area – was the responsibility of OZ. For OZ, the CMC is the first hospital that the office has realised. “On Curaçao, it is a well-known phenomenon that there are buildings with a public function that cannot perform their task properly because the indoor climate is inadequate and they do not sufficiently facilitate meetings. “OZ was the right party for the job thanks to its extensive experience of building in the tropics,” Juliana explains.
Once the contract was awarded, the road to the final result was complex. A project of this magnitude had never been realised before on Curaçao. In addition, this new hospital meant an enormous change for the staff and other users, in terms of the move and a new working and recovery environment. This sometimes met with resistance, however the design was well received due to the designers’ vision and powers of persuasion. The design puts the patient, staff and visitor first. From the start, it was clear to the design team that the hospital had to become a hospital ‘di nos’. In addition, there was a strong team that believed in the design and knew how to convey this with enthusiasm and conviction at every step along the way.
An important milestone in that process was convincing UNESCO to include the hospital in the World Heritage site. The design came from experts but focus groups with healthcare professionals were also able to deliver their input for the design at key stages. “Very important,” says hospital director Gilbert Martina, about the input of the local healthcare experts. “Care in the Netherlands is very different from care in Curaçao. Here there is a high demand, there are many complex patients and a large patient population with diabetes. We don’t have any other kind of care, which means that many people with a request for help come directly to our Emergency Department. This kind of knowledge was essential to give the right solution to these problems.