Lasting Impressions – The Curacao Medical Center Project

Kelly Adighije, SVP, Director of Commissioning

4 mins
Hospital Nobo Otrobanda project in Curacao Island
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Sometimes, no matter what career path you are in, certain projects leave a lasting impression on you. This was the case with the Curacao Medical Center, a state-of-the-art facility that has made such a significant impact on the community, especially during a time of crisis. This blog shares my experience traveling from the Island of Aruba to the Island of Curacao to visit the Curacao Medical Center, and why it has left such a lasting impression on me and my career.

Curacao Medical Center

Island Hopping

Two weeks ago, I was on the Island of Aruba working on onsite field testing for the Queen Beatrix International Airport HVAC Systems Upgrade project – a tremendous team effort involving the airport’s PM team and contractors. While on this trip, I wanted to take an opportunity to visit the neighboring island of Curacao to check in on one of our past collaborative projects with Ballast Nedam – the Curacao Medical Center. Baumann Consulting began providing Energy Modeling and LEED Commissioning services for this LEED Gold-certified Hospital project back in 2014 and this was one of the first major projects I managed since joining Baumann in 2012. At the time, the only other major hospital in Curacao had been built in the 1850s and despite all the renovations and additions to this hospital, it could no longer serve the needs of the Island and neighboring territories. Hence, the Netherlands-based architecture firm EGM Architecten designed the Curacao Medical Center, and Baumann was brought in at the beginning of 2014. The project was completed in November 2019, about 1 month before the Covid-19 pandemic started gaining worldwide coverage.

Curacao Medical Center - Model    Curacao Medical Center Exterior

Visiting Curacao During COVID

During a break from the Aruba project’s onsite testing activities, my wife and I hopped on a short 30-minute flight to Curacao right in the middle of a pandemic. Once on the island, we learned that it was on a very strict lockdown with curfews and further restrictions to movement due to the high Covid infection rate of just under 5,000 from a population of approximately 160,000. Colleagues and friends of ours thought we were insane for making the trip. We stayed at the only hotel accepting guests – Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino. We found out that the only reason the hotel was still open was that it was providing living accommodations to up to 140 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals from Ami Expeditionary Healthcare who had been flown in specifically due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Island did not have enough doctors and medical personnel to deal with the number of sick and infected patients, so these “human angels” were brought in from all over the world to help manage the crisis for up 2 to 3 months at a time.

Curacao Medical Center Interior   Curacao Medical Center Interior    Curacao Medical Center Interior

Curacao Medical Center

During our stay, we engaged with some of the health professionals staying at the hotel and discovered that the epicenter for caregiving was all being provided by the state-of-the-art facilities at the new Curacao Medical Center. The hospital had been converted into a Covid-19 response ground zero centers and all spoke very highly of the facilities available to provide the necessary care to save lives. I just nodded at the feedback but was immensely proud. I scheduled a quick walk-through with Marc Harks, a Construction Manager at Ballast Nedam based in Curacao and the Project Manager for the Curacao Medical Center. He confirmed the conditions on the Island and the impact the center had in stemming the tide against Covid on the Island. We shared stories on the multitude of highs and lows of this project, the stress and strain to near breaking point it had caused to bring to fruition, and conceded that seeing the hospital now in its pomp was one of the proudest moments we both had in our careers to date.  We were very humbled to have had even a minutia of an impact in bringing this to fruition. My colleague on the Queen Beatrix International Airport project even mentioned in passing after our trip that his premature baby had been delivered at the Curacao Medical Center as it was the only facility within the region that could have provided the care that was needed during his family’s time of need. Amazing! I eventually told some of the doctors and nurses about our involvement in the development of the hospital and they all congratulated me on a job well done.

Kelly Adighije and Marks Harks at the Curacao Medical Center
Kelly with Mark Harks at the Curacao Medical Center

Sometimes we never know the impact of our efforts, what they could bring, or how they will be perceived. From a young age, by amazing parents, I was always told to always do my best in whatever my endeavor or craft was with the end goal to leave a positive impact on people’s lives. I would like to say that it was a lovely feeling to have felt this during my quick visit to the Curacao Medical Center. I would like to thank every single person that contributed to the project which made a significant impact in bringing this hospital to the Island of Curacao.

Lasting Impressions – The Curacao Medical Center Project