Second Chamber worried about medical capacity in Saba, Statia

Concerned about the limited health care facilities in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Sec­ond Chamber of the Dutch Parliament wants to know how the Dutch government is providing support to the islands in terms of their medical needs and capacity.

The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations sent a long list of questions to Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thurs­day as a response to his let­ter dated March 25 about the effects of the coronavi­rus in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom.

The committee is con­cerned about the limited medical capacity. “Are there sufficient medical facilities on the islands to deal with a possible outbreak? In what way are the Carib­bean Netherlands islands supported in their needs for intensive-care capacity, masks, ventilators and sup­port equipment? How are they supported in terms of capacity for patients? Is the health care on the islands sufficiently equipped, both in quality and quantity, to handle one or more (severe) COVID-19 patients?”

Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops (centre) visited A.M. Edwards Medical Centre in Saba in January 2079. At left is Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Director of Kingdom Relations Dirk-Jan Bonnet and at right Saba’s resident doctor Gijs Koot. (Public entity Saba photo)

The committee members asked about increasing the level of preparedness when the number of COVID-19 patients increases. “How will the Netherlands offer support in case coronavi­rus contaminations happen on the islands which im­mediately surpass the local medical capacity, which is very limited, with Saba, for example, only having one IC unit? To what extent can St. Maarten Medical Center still take care of patients
from Saba and St. Eusta­tius?”

The committee members wanted to know whether, aside from Bonaire, medical specialists have also gone to St. Eustatius and Saba. They also asked about the guaranteeing of regular health care for patients in the Caribbean Netherlands; for example, diabetics and kidney patients in St. Eusta­tius and Saba who travel to St. Maarten for treatment.

Isolating the Caribbean Netherlands with the sus­pension of regular air travel and cruise ships in essence is a very good concept to keep the coronavirus away from the islands. However, the committee wondered how things would proceed when the borders were re-opened. “Is a scenario being worked on how to guard the islands against new contaminations once the travel restrictions are lifted?”

The deployment of Dutch Defence for Saba and St. Eustatius was mentioned. “Is it possible to provide military support to Saba and St. Eustatius in case St. Maarten is no longer able to medically support these islands? If so, when?”

There were some ques­tions relating to the Dutch emergency package, which also applies to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as they are part of the Netherlands. The Dutch government an­ticipates spending about 13 million euros for the Carib­bean Netherlands to assist employers and employees.

The committee asked about the possibility to ex­tend the duration of the emergency package to six months, seeing that the islands are greatly depen­dent on tourism. It was also pointed out that self-em­ployed persons, under the emergency package, can re­ceive 80 per cent of the min­imum wage, which is about US $900. “Do you acknowl­edge that this amount is be­low the subsistence level? Are you willing to increase this amount?”

The committee members inquired about the addition­al funding available for the public entities. They wanted to know whether these addi­tional means could be used to temporarily increase the social benefits to cover the increasing cost of living and extra medical expenses for residents.

The poverty level and high cost of living on the islands were addressed by the com­mittee as well. Knops was asked how he would speed up the process to reduce the cost of living. Knops’ col­league State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark is in charge of this process, which in the opinion of the Second Chamber is taking too long while people are suffer­ing in poverty. Another question also related to the portfolio of State Secretary van Ark. “Arc you willing, considering the special cir­cumstances of the islands, which heavily depend on tourism, to temporary raise the amounts of the legal minimum wage law?”

Regarding the support to small entrepreneurs, the committee asked what amount of the six-million­-euro subsidy to the low in­terest loan facility Qredits would be destined for the Caribbean Netherlands, and how the communica­tion would take place so small businesses can make use of this facility.

The Daily Herald.

Saturday, April 4: French side reports five new cases of COVID-19 and two more patients recovered
April 3 - Address Island Governor Jonathan Johnson: testing continues - so far no COVID-19 cases

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