Attendees at the Healthcare Seminar.
ST. EUSTATIUS–Government officials and health care professionals participated in a health seminar at Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) Thursday and Friday, May 12-13, to discuss problems plaguing the healthcare system in the Caribbean Netherlands and possible solutions..
In attendance were Government Commissioner Alida Francis, Deputy Government Commissioner Claudia Toet, St. Eustatius Healthcare Foundation supervisory board members and director, representatives of the Health Insurance Office, Saba Cares Foundation, the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport VWS and others.
In opening the seminar on Thursday, Francis said that the passing of Solandy Sanchez, who died at the age of 27, and the deaths of several other patients, signal “an alarm” that all is not well with the healthcare system. There is so much that is lacking in its application, including the “unacceptably huge backlog” in medical referrals for specialist and extra-specialist care which have “catastrophic results,” Francis said.
“The pain, the grief, the sense of loss, the anguish and the anger experienced by families and loved ones of the victims often bury our instinctive sense of gratitude for the work you as healthcare professionals do,” she said.
She told the medical professionals that all of them are drawn to this profession because of their strong desire to care, to serve, to help and to heal. “Yours is a daunting task, and often a turbulent one, where you sometimes work in less-than-ideal conditions that drain your energy and challenge your inner strength, but never dent your will or your commitment or your spirit.”
She said not many people have the “strength of character and the internal constitution” to witness what medical professionals experience daily and not be severely impacted mentally or emotionally, such as sick and dying patients seeking solace, families praying for miracles that do not happen, vulnerable humans deteriorating before your very eyes. “And yet you continue – caring, nurturing, consoling, and healing where possible.”
Francis said that never has the strength, courage and dedication of healthcare professionals been more apparent than during the last two-plus years during the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking death upon everyone. “We shall long remember the extraordinary sacrifices that you made during COVID-19, even at the risk of your own lives and the lives of your families and loved ones, to keep us safe.”
To ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain and their efforts are not wasted, their legacy should not “perish in a raging ocean of despair,” said Francis.
“We must tackle the issues facing our healthcare system that hang over us like the modern-day sword of Damocles. Now is the time to ask how long must we allow our people to suffer and, sadly, to die, before we recognise that it’s only if we work as one team – doctors and nurses, hospitals and hospital administrators, policymakers and patients, healthcare providers and health insurance suppliers – only then will we find workable solutions; for instance, for the adequate handling of complaints.”
Francis urged everyone involved to stop the finger-pointing, but instead to aim for a better life and accessible healthcare for every resident of Statia, Saba and Bonaire.
“For the sake of those for whom we care, those we help and those we heal, we must trust each other and collaborate with each other. As you deliberate during this seminar, it is important that you emerge with a clear, practical plan that will instil confidence in our communities that we are willing, prepared and committed to coordinate our efforts better so patients can feel safe and cared for. … It has been 12 years since the introduction of this general health insurance system and it is time we get it right,” Francis said.