Executive Council of Bonaire concerned about Air Ambulance situation

Fundashon Mariadal wants Colombian Carrier Sarpa to provide Air Ambulance Services, but sees plans thwarted by Aviation Authorities in Curaçao. Photo: Archive ABC Online Media

KRALENDIJK – The Executive Council of Bonaire is concerned about the unclear situation that has arisen around the Air Ambulance service at Fundashon Mariadal. On January 24th, the contract with the former operator Medicair expired, and the hospital announced a collaboration with the new partner Sarpa. 

Despite the enthusiastic reception of the Colombian company Sarpa, it appears that the company does not have permits to fly between the islands. Sarpa is allowed to perform flights between Bonaire and Colombia.

However, the majority of ambulance flights are carried out between the islands themselves, particularly the ABC islands. Earlier, the Curaçao Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) had already stated that Sarpa does not have the rights to fly between the islands. On Friday, the Aruban aviation authority also put a stop to it, informing a Sarpa plane ready to depart from Aruba to Bonaire that the flight did not align with the company’s rights and was not permitted.

Commissioner Nina den Heyer stated that the Executive Council was never informed by Fundashon Mariadal about the intention to terminate the collaboration with the locally established Medicair, only to enter into a contract with a foreign company.


Den Heyer also mentioned in response to questions from ABC Online Media that the situation raised concerns for the Executive Council. “We officially don’t have authority over it, but of course, we are also concerned about the reports and developments,” said Den Heyer. The Commissioner mentioned that in the meantime the Executive Council had sent a letter to Fundashon Mariadal with requests for additional information and an explanation of the hospital’s actions and choices. 


Due to the situation with Sarpa, which has repeatedly attempted to carry out flights from Bonaire to Curaçao and Aruba without the required permits, the joint aviation authorities have now decided to launch an official investigation into the incidents. Performing flights between the islands of the former Dutch Antilles and Aruba is reserved for airlines based on one of the islands, or Dutch airlines. Other airlines are not allowed to perform these flights without special permissions being granted. CCAA director Peter Steinmetz had previously indicated that he was not even remotely inclined to grant those rights to Sarpa, especially not as long as there are local airlines capable of performing such flights.


It is unclear what will happen now that Sarpa’s ambulance flights to the sister islands are not allowed. In the event of an emergency or calamity, a situation may arise where, at least from Fundashon Mariadal’s perspective, there is no ambulance plane available. 

Medicair in the meantime has contracted its own medical crew, and the planes are equipped with all necessary medical equipment. “We are ready and stand-bye to perform ambulance flights from Bonaire and the region as always, but no longer under contract with Mariadal,” says Medicair director René Winkel. The company is now offering its services independently, without the involvement of the hospital.

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