SETTING THE STANDARD

Panama 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Wendy Berrío, General Manager of Centro Médico del Caribe, on the healthcare needs and how the private sector is investing to put itself ahead of the pack.

Wendy Berrío
BIOGRAPHY
Wendy Berrío earned her BA in electric engineering from the Universidad Santa María La Antigua and then a master’s in management engineering from the University of Louisville. Since then she has worked for 3M Panama, S.A. and Johnson & Johnson, and joined Centro Médico del Caribe in 2002.

What is your critical assessment related to the latest developments of the medical sector in the country?

According to 2015 WHO health indicators, Panama invests 7.2% of its GDP on health; however, a high percentage of that is for salaries and state payroll and the Bay Sanitation project. Thus, the state must see health as a basic need to generate opportunities and professional development in order to provide a better quality of life for the citizens. We have 1.7 physicians, 1.4 nurses, and 2.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people. These numbers clearly demonstrate a real need in healthcare in our country.

What are the clinic's fields of specialty?

The CMC offers all services of a second-level hospital in Panama: emergency room, critical care unit, hospitalization, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neonatology and delivery, surgery and outpatient surgery, hemodialysis, radiology, imaging including ultrasound, digital mammography, tomography and X-rays, respiratory therapy, and more. It provides a number of specialties: internal medicine, pneumology, urology, neurology and neurosurgery, ophthalmology, gynecology and obstetrics, neonatology, interventional radiology, pain management, anesthesia, cardiology, nephrology, intensive care, and orthopedic surgery. We hope to include neurocritical care and a pain clinic in 2017, which are non-existent services in the province today. Recently, in conjunction with the LACIPA group, Dr. Richard Altieri successfully performed the first bariatric surgery in Colón, incorporating this new surgery into the hospital's product portfolio. There are plans to work with a group of cardiovascular physicians and thoracic surgeons from Texas on diagnostic and treatment projects for cardiovascular diseases.

How would you assess the quality of medical equipment used in Panama's clinics and hospitals?

Panama's health sector does not regulate the acquisition of medical devices; therefore, any company can import medical equipment for private clients. Hundreds of companies in Panama sell medical devices. Due to the influence of the US on local physicians, mostly of whom studied there, cutting-edge and avant-garde technology is usually acquired. The Centro Médico del Caribe recently purchased the following equipment, which differentiates it from the other private hospitals of Colón: a monitoring center for critical care, Wi-Fi with five monitors including IBP and BIS, Mindray Model T5/Hypervisor, advanced mechanical ventilator IMT BellaVista 1000, Siemens digital mammograph, Siemens Emotion 6-slice Tomograph, Stryker hospital beds, a nurses' call system with blue code, Mindray HyLite LED surgical lights with integrated HD camera and screen, and a Mindray Unibase 30 electronic surgical table. They are unique products in the province of Colón.

How does the medical center promote knowledge and awareness about the importance of preventive medicine among the local population?

One of the investments of the technological sector that go hand in hand with the promotion of wellness and preventive medicine was the use of social networks as a tool to raise interest in society: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These communication channels share daily messages aimed at raising greater awareness on topics of interest such as diabetes, chronic diseases, nutrition, exercise, family balance, and so on. In addition, and no less important, is the subject of a physician who, with the exception what is happening in Panama City, is a recognized and implemented figure in the Centro Médico del Caribe that is focused on primary care and preventive medicine. We are the first private hospital in Colón with a permanent biomedical engineer and the first hospital in Colón with a competent staff in radiological protection. We have a training agreement for professionals in radiology technology with the University of Santander and a strategic collaboration with INCAE-Seminars of Quality Hospital Management in Costa Rica and Honduras for administrative and managerial staff.

What are your short-term expansion and consolidation plans?

The mission of greatest relevance for this year is to conclude the expansion works on the second floor and to offer more spaces for outpatient procedures, other specialty clinics, and any service that the hospital can provide. We want to get the ISO9001 certificate for the clinical laboratory area and we will create a blood bank.