From left: Patient-advocate-group members Jessica Berkel and Astrid McKenzie-Tatem presenting their letter to State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relation Raymond Knops with Government Commissioner Mike Franco looking on, at Old Gin House in St. Eustatius on Thursday.
- EUSTATIUS–A soon-to-be-formed patient-advocate group made a presentation to State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Raymond Knops on Thursday concerning various issues related to healthcare in St. Eustatius.
A letter with underlying documentation concerning patients’ interaction with health insurance office ZVK concerning medical referrals and other issues was presented to Knops at Old Gin House.
A similar letter containing information about people’s stories and experience with health care providers and insurers will be presented to State Secretary of Public Health, Welfare and Sport Paul Blokhuis. Government Commissioner Mike Franco will be sent a copy of the letter.
The group wants to raise awareness and strives for better patient care.
Knops welcomed the initiative and promised to pass the letter on to Blokhuis. He said that putting issues on paper is more productive in getting a message across than shouting it in the street.
Group members Astrid McKenzie-Tatem and Jessica Berkel said the passing of former Acting Lt. Governor Louis Brown was the lightning bolt that had spurred the group to action.
“His passing is another example of what our community has been faced with since the inception of the ‘public entity’ status. The lengthy process that one must go through in order to see a medical specialist (local doctor) or receive the necessary care is unacceptable for any one person within this Kingdom.
“Unfortunately, this not an isolated case. There are cases of patients being refused referrals for follow-up although recommended by the treating specialist, or that the processing time is for unknown reasons so lengthy these cases turn into emergencies. By that time the patient has to be evacuated as a medical emergency; in some cases just too late,” the group’s representatives stated.
The community has reached a breaking point, McKenzie-Tatem said.
“The frustration and dissatisfaction with these proceedings have reached a level whereby the community is at a loss on how to proceed, as this type of treatment is unacceptable. When one is ill you look for answers from your healthcare provider and do not expect to get the run-around. Members of the community ponder whether the healthcare organisations on the island, as well as ZVK, are lacking empathy for the problems of the community,” she stated.
There have been numerous complaints to ZVK, the government, the medical centre and Government Department Caribbean Netherlands RCN since 2010.
“After nine years we believe the healthcare system is still fumbling in the dark. The referral process is still unstructured and non-transparent,” the group said.
The major hurdle patients encounter is obtaining referrals to a specialist. Follow-up appointments and travel arrangements are also big challenges, McKenzie-Tatem said.
When a person visits a general practitioner, it is left to the discretion of that physician whether a person is referred or not, as there are no designated indication procedures for cases that must be dealt with by a medical specialist, as the process is all in the hands of the general practitioner, McKenzie-Tatem explained. Getting referral papers actually submitted to ZVK is another issue that creates more delays, with referrals to specialists in Colombia taking more than a year, the group said.
The group is requesting a full investigation into the ZVK structure. A pilot programme related to healthcare is expected to start in Saba, which is facing similar issues. The group is wondering whether a similar programme could be carried out in Statia. “We were informed that State Secretary Blokhuis plans to decentralise the ZVK office, which we believe is not an end but a starting point. The process of referrals, accountability of the process and effectiveness of services provided by all stakeholders must be addressed,” the patient group stated.
They are urgently requesting all stakeholders to intervene in this “very pivotal” matter, which has been ongoing for almost a decade. They are ready to sit with the relevant authorities to come up with workable solutions “whereby the patients will be the focal point in the entire process.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/88723-patient-group-makes-presentation-to-knops