Sailors plagued by scurvy dreamed about that hospital

As a kid I was totally fascinated about the discovery of Cape Horn, Cabo de Hornos. Willem Corneliszoon Schouten and Jacques Le Maire were charged by the Dutch East India Company to find a new route to the Pacific and Spice Islands. And they did on January 29th 1616 with 87 men and two ships – the Eendracht and Hoorn. Their legacy Strait of Le Maire was later questioned by Sir Francis Drake for his expedition in September/Octover 1578.


Cape Horn is a 360 day strong windy place. Violent storms, large waves and incluenced by the polar falkland stream – all year water temperature between 5 °C and 8 °C, more than 280 rainy days. A ship graveyard, countless sailors found their final resting place there, some of them died from scurvy – lack of vitamin C. Local informations and a today’s look here – Puerto Williams, Chile.

Founded in 1953, the settlement grew to a population of almost 2900. There is a flght connection to Punta Arenas (1,5 hours, 600 km), it is a biosphere reserve, about 5 hostels and a commitment to ecotourism.
More informations in this 9 minutes Audiopedia file.

And there is the Hospital Naval de Puerto Williams. Officially opened in 1960 as Casa de Socorros y Primeros Auxilios.

will  hosp.jpg


The hospital grew from 459 m2 to 638 m2 in 1979, having a total restoration in 1999 and becoming the new hospital in early 2016 with now 1600 m2 on two levels with the name «Cristina Calderón» (one of the last representatives of ethnic canoera still living in Puerto Williams ).
The construction in a news flash 1,5 minutes movie from May 2015 (24horas).
Investment was about 5.4 billion pesos CLP for the construction and 900 million for the technical equipment = 9.5 million USD.

Pamela Franzi, director of the Magellan Health Services/Servicio de Salud Magallanes said that staff of 100 could rise up to 240 under the supervision of the Hospital Clinico Magallanes (@HCMagallanes) in Punta Arenas.
radio.jpg  hosp.jpg

Now there is a infrastructure of 4 beds for adults, 1 for kids and 1 post operative. The new services include minor surgery and x-rays – no flights to Punta Arenas needed anymore.

The hospital has a team of two doctors leading the internal education and training, nurses, medical technologists, paramedical, midwifery, nutritionist, psychologist, dentist, physical therapist as well as social, administrative and auxiliary assistants.

The kitchen controversy
Even when this is a historical investment a discussion started when it was clear the hospital has no kitchen. The official statement is that hospitalization is exceptional in this hospital and there is no kitchen for exceptional needs. But the staff? The nutritionist and the outsourcing agreement with the public market Edenred seem to close the gap. As a hospital professional I cannot agree with the statement «One does not make a hospital to give food as a hotel, to be clear.» (mayor Jorge Flies, @JorgeFlies). Even when the hospital is small.

Comming back to the sailors of the 17th century.

They would have loved a hospital at Cape Horn. But these pionieers and discoverers knew that they go for a dangerous and risky life. But if there would have been a hospital, the scurvy victims wouldn’t have been happy about the missing kitchen.

Another impressive hospital development story. Close to the antarctic. An area of future growth.

My compliments and best wishes to Puerto Williams
Maurice Codourey


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