SMMC welcomes volunteer doctors back home
~ Dr. Kim Verschueren and Dr. Katja Andeweg return from the Netherlands to help fight COVID-19 ~
CAY HILL -- St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) is temporarily receiving assistance from two medical doctors who are very familiar with the island, Dr. Kim Verschueren, who was born and raised on St. Maarten, and Dr. Katja Andeweg, who has worked on the island for several years in the past.
Dr. Kim Verschueren was born and raised on the island and has been a medical doctor for two and a half years. In 2011, she graduated from MPC and left the island to study medicine in Utrecht, the Netherlands. At the beginning of her fourth year, in 2014, her first rotation (internships in medical school) was on the surgical ward in SMMC under the supervision of SMMC Medical Director and General Surgeon Dr. Felix Holiday. She graduated as a medical doctor in 2017 and a year after that she started working in The Hague until coming to St. Maarten. In October 2020, she will be starting her six-year residency in Gynecology/Obstetrics in The Hague/Leiden.
Dr. Katja Andeweg is a Dutch medical doctor with a special love for Sint Maarten and its people. Nine years ago, she interned at the Bushroad Clinic and after graduating, she worked at the Emergency Room (ER) of SMMC for a year and a half, after which she returned to the Bushroad Clinic and also taught at the American University of the Caribbean (AUC). After completing her Master’s degree, she now works as a GP in training in Amsterdam and will return to the Netherlands in July.
What made you decide to assist SMMC during the COVID-19 pandemic?
KV: As health care workers, many of us feel the urge to help your 'own' country, especially when you feel potentially more valuable. In my situation, with the guarantee of starting my specialization at the end of the year, I felt free and able to quit my job in the Netherlands and come home to help where necessary.
Quite some colleagues of mine, working abroad (in Suriname, Curacao, Sub-Sahara Africa), returned to the Netherlands as soon as the pandemic threat grew. In addition to this, some of the richest countries in the world (UK and USA) are currently recruiting doctors from all over the world to help during this COVID-19 pandemic. This has catastrophic consequences for countries most in need of their health care professionals and made me feel inclined to come back to St. Maarten.
KA: The main reason to come back is because of the request of the hospital for doctors. In my workplace in the Netherlands, it was very quiet, and wanting to make myself more useful I decided to come back. The GP-specialty training (huisartsenopleiding) and the foundation (SBOH) agreed that I could be working in the SMMC to help fight the COVID-pandemic instead of working in a GP-office in Amsterdam. They promised to allow me to continue my training while still paying me and I am very grateful that they gave me this opportunity.
In a nutshell, can you tell us what your primary role will be while here?
KV: I will help where necessary as a general doctor. From what I've understood, this may be the general wards, the COVID-19 ward, the intensive care unit, the emergency rooms, or wherever else.
KA: I will work as a medical doctor where ever is needed: on the ER-department, the general wards or the COVID-19 ward. Another contribution will most likely be improving the communication between the hospital and general practitioners and helping setting up COVID-protocols for the hospital. My working experience on the island, also after hurricane Irma, and the experience with COVID in the Netherlands as a general practitioner will certainly contribute to that.
What has your first day(s) working at SMMC been like?
KV: Katja and I were immediately tested upon arrival (blood and swab) and have been quarantining ourselves awaiting the results. We also received work instructions and learn how to work with the electronic patient database via a video-conference.
KA: The first thing we got when arriving in the hospital was a COVID rapid test and a swab. Until both results were in, we didn’t have any patient contact.
What is your first impression of SMMC’s COVID response?
KV: SMMC's COVID response seems very adequate, even better than the initial response in the hospital I worked in the Netherlands. Instructions are clear (wash, social distancing, self-quarantine), gatherings are avoided and video-conference are used to provide work instructions. Next to this, triage of patients is done outside the emergency department and a separate Covid-19 pavilion is built next to the hospital to be able to keep providing regular, Covid-19 free, care in the SMMC building.
KA: The first impression that I got from the video SMMC made is that it looks very professional. All details on the floor I still have to look into, but in the hospital, everything seems to be well controlled.
SMMC is proud and grateful to welcome Dr. Verschueren and Dr. Andeweg back to the hospital and thank them for their commitment and dedication to the health and wellbeing of the people of St. Maarten.
[ Picture: Dr. Kim Verschueren (left) and Dr. Katja Andeweg pose, while maintaining appropriate social distance, in front of SMMC’s main entrance]