The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport VWS in The Hague is looking at making the medical transport of patients from Saba and St. Eustatius to St. Maarten more effective, but for now, transport will still take place with a smaller aircraft.
This can be concluded from the reply of Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen to written questions of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in relation to the committee’s visit to Saba and St. Eustatius early May this year.
The committee minced no words when it asked the state secretary why a “separate, small aircraft was hired at a high cost,” an aircraft in “which people and coffins hardly fit, with respectless results,” instead of making use of the larger aircraft of WINAIR, a company that is co-owned by the Dutch State.
Van Huffelen explained that before the COVED-19 pandemic, the Ministry of VWS had an agreement with WINAIR to transport patients. “During the pandemic, WINAIR was in financially difficult times.
That resulted in operational choices, which had as consequence that flights for the Ministry of VWS sometimes were cancelled, which meant that patients sometimes had to spend the night in St. Maarten.”
The flexibility to offer custom-made flights for dialysis patients from St. Eustatius and Saba also dropped significantly. Sometimes patients who were treated at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) had to wait entire parts of the day before they could return to their island, noted the state secretary.
“The Ministry of VWS at the time followed up on these signals by arranging transportation with another airline. It was especially crucial to organise continuity for dialysis patients and urgent referrals. Thanks to the smaller aircraft, Saba and St. Eustatius are sure of continuity with customised flight times, despite all measures in connection with COV!D-19,” she stated.
According to Van Huffelen, the Ministry of VWS was aware of the incident with the repatriation of a deceased. She said the ministry was also aware of the wishes of a number of Statia and Saba residents to be transported in larger aircraft. “The Ministry of VWS wants to organise medical transport more effectively where possible,” was the response.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management IenW is carrying out an assessment to implement a Public Service Obligation (PSO) for air transport of passengers to and from Saba and St. Eustatius. The Ministry of VWS will consult with the Ministry of IenW to see how patient transportation can be included, the state secretary noted.
The Committee for Kingdom Relations also enquired about the complaints of Saba and Statia patients where it regards the medical referral service of Health Insurance Office ZVK, which resorts under Care and Youth Caribbean Netherlands ZJCN.
The committee wanted to know if the state secretary was aware of clients who did not receive approval for a medical referral or received it too late, which complicated their medical issues, or that they felt degraded by ZJCN.
“ZJCN is not aware of the increased seriousness of complaints of insured persons as a result of late approval for medical referrals or the image that people were degraded. In the month of May, ZJCN created the possibility for insured persons to file their complaints personally with the complaints officer. Complaints that ZJCN receives are treated seriously and, if necessary, personnel and contracted parties are admonished for undesired behaviour,” the state secretary replied.
Van Huffelen further announced the establishing of a task force to draft a plan of approach for a number of practical issues in the areas of banking services, notary services, the Kadaster, the transfer of property and undivided property. The intention is to make transactions in the public and private domains easier and to solve the bottlenecks through a comprehensive approach.
Asked about the possibility to establish a digital notary for Saba, the state secretary explained that this was legally not possible, as it is a requirement to appear before a notary in person. This secures the client’s identity and prevents fraud. She said a practical, short-term solution was being worked on to appoint a temporary notary for Saba and St. Eustatius.
The Daily Herald.