Letter to the editor: A Lesson For ZVK and Minister Hugo de Jonge

Letter to the editor

Dear Editor,

Hugo de Jonge as Dutch Health Minister needs to review the way responsible care is delivered by his civil servants from the ZVK (Care Insurance Office) on St. Eustatius and Bonaire. As a recent patient in need of support from these offices, I was treated with a lack of empathy, flexibility and communication skills.

Diagnosed with acute appendicitis, I was faced by a life or death situation. The St. Eustatius hospital – with immediate consent of my Dutch insurance company – swiftly organised an air ambulance bound for Bonaire and an urgent medical operation.

When it came to my return to St. Eustatius, it was suggested to me by several knowledgeable people on St. Eustatius and Bonaire to contact ZVK. It was a reasonable proposition. The ZVK operates two direct medical flights per week between the two islands and as a Dutch pensioner, resident and taxpayer, I thought it would not be unreasonable to ask for this service paid for by taxpayers’ money. Furthermore,  I was prepared to pay for a seat on one of their sizeable planes.

Previous non-ZVK patients were granted this favor. Why not me?

“No!” came back the email from a dispassionate officer inside the ZVK Kralendijk office. This bleeped response was not accompanied by any explanation or sensitivity for my situation.   

I then turned to the crisis management “adviser” on Statia whose typical civil service advice was to ignore my crisis and deflect the problem higher up the chain to the Ministerial Czarina for the ZVK on Statia.

And now the crunch: “I am not involved with individual cases,” this unfeeling and dismissive Dutch Mandarin informed me.

So much for responsible care! Instead of a two hour flight to recuperate at home on the Historical Gem, I was obliged to spend a painful two week journey back via Curacao and St. Maarten with all the inconvenience of infrequent flights, Covid tests, hotel and restaurant bills not to mention eventual quarantine.

Given that Hugo de Jonge is a Christian Democrat, I am tempted to exclaim: Jesus wept! However, a choppy meteorology discounted a walking back to Statia on water

This is not the first time that the ZVK has been criticised for lack of responsible care and false economy. Over the years, the ZVK has squandered many millions on delaying the return of many Statia patients treated in Colombia and other medical destinations – if only to save a few nickels on cheaper flight tickets. Some patients have nearly expired before repatriation.

My lesson for ZVK and its Minister de Jonge is to rely on personnel who are prepared to listen, care and respond accordingly. The skies of Statia are punctured by parachuted administrators from the mainland whose talents, experience and qualifications are rarely pre-checked even at the highest levels.    

As a Dutch taxpayer, I expect the State to work at the service of the individual and not the reverse. I shall take this matter further since it displays a complete lack of flexibility, communication skills and more importantly responsible care.

Chris Russell

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