Dialysis patients boarding an aircraft in St. Eustatius. (File photo)
ST. EUSTATIUS–The COVID-19 pandemic has created several challenges for dialysis patients who before the COVID-19 crisis would have to travel to St. Maarten three times per week for treatment. The Island Council voted three-to-zero on Wednesday to advance the realisation of a dialysis centre in St. Eustatius.
Present at the meeting were Progressive Labour Party (PLP) council members Reuben Merkman, Rechelline Leerdam and Clyde van Putten, and Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis.
Council members spoke of the stress dialysis patients have to go through to have treatment and enquired what is being done to further the plans to create a dialysis centre on the island.
Francis explained that the situation regarding patients and improving their situation is still ongoing and that the council would need to sit with all relevant stakeholders to make a more conclusive solution a reality.
After the ban on civil aviation over the airspace of the Caribbean Netherlands in April 2020, dialysis patients were transferred to St. Maarten. Due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in St. Maarten in August 2020, health insurance office ZVK and St. Eustatius Healthcare Foundation (SEHCF) arranged for the dialysis patients to be relocated to Curaçao for safety reasons. One patient opted to remain in St. Maarten.
Plans were being made in November 2020 to relocate the patients to St. Maarten for the holiday season, but those plans ultimately fell through due to several factors, such as the shortage of dialysis nurses in St. Maarten, stress on healthcare caused by the pandemic and the fact that two patients required intensive care at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC).
“SMMC has recruited five dialysis nurses from the Netherlands, who are expected to arrive in St. Maarten in the first week of February 2021, and discussions are currently taking place with SMMC as to when they will be ready to take on dialysis patients from Statia,” Francis said.
The Island Council revisited the cases of several dialysis patients who had passed away and highlighted the case of a young woman who lost her father and uncle and wrote a strongly worded document with accompanying advice on the situation of patients who seek treatment. The council members also want to look into measures to prevent patients from requiring dialysis.
Francis cited a report of April 23, 2018, in which it was stated that there were four dialysis patients in Statia at the time, with the prognosis that these numbers could grow to seven patients in the future.
She also said the chief medical officer (CMO) at Queen Beatrix Medical Centre, SEHCF, the Public Health Department and the Auxiliary Home are working together on a restructured, better-working and more-cohesive “white column” which is the subject of a memorandum of understanding between SEHCF and the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport.
SEHCF is also making a business plan for a new medical centre, which is still in the early stages, Francis said. She said it is the ambition to have a new centre in 2025.
In order to introduce on-island treatment of dialysis patients, it is important to have the right level of expertise in Statia, as well as trained dialysis nurses, Francis said. “Steps have already been taken, but the process will continue with all technical persons involved in the healthcare sector. Their updated findings will be presented to the council at a later date.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/island-council-votes-for-dialysis-centre-in-statia