Support for construction of new nursing home

Board of Directors of the Benevolent Foundation (BSF) and Saba Health Care Foundation (SHCF) Dr. Joka Blaauboer (right) receives a token of appreciation from leader of the Dutch Parliamentary delegation Jan Paternotte (left) as Island Governor Jonathan Johnson (second from right) and Senator Sophie van Bijsterveld look on.

The Bottom, Saba – Members of the delegation of the First and Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament which visited Saba on Saturday, January 12, showed support for the plans of the Benevolent Foundation Saba (BFS) to build a new nursing home for the eldery and disabled, also known as ‘The Home.’ The Parliamentarians visited the A.M. Edwards Medical Center and The Home.

Members of the delegation agreed with Director of the BFS Pieter van Amsterdam and Dr. Joka Blaauboer, in charge of the BFS and Saba Health Care Foundation (SHCF) Board of Directors, that the construction of a new nursing home for the elderly and the disabled is highly necessary. “Saba has been asking for a new nursing home for years. The current building was never built for the purpose to serve as a nursing home. It looks cozy, but the building is outdated and it is much too small,” Van Amsterdam told the delegation.

At this moment sixteen clients live at The Home, while The Home also facilitates two activity programs, Saba LIFE Center and Saba LIFE Plus. “There is very little space, barely any privacy and the different groups of clients living in The Home are mixed,” said Van Amsterdam.

BFS are trying to get financing from the Caribbean Netherlands Health Insurance Office ZVK and the Ministry of Health, Wellbeing and Sports (VWS) to build a new nursing home, Dr. Blaauboer explained. “Everybody agrees that this needs to happen, but it is a long process to get the necessary financing,” she said. The BFS is in the process of securing funding to purchase land, but the necessary financing for a decent and needed long-term vision research and the construction of a new nursing home has not materialized as yet.

Small space

During a tour of The Home, the Members of Parliament could see the limitations of the current building and the lack of space for themselves. Delegation member Machiel de Graaf of the Party for Freedom (PVV), who in the past worked a physical therapist, said that he was struck by the small space in which The Home had to operate. Investments are highly necessary, he said after the visit. “The ZVK Office and the Ministry of VWS need to fix this.”

The Dutch delegation was impressed by the renovations at the A.M. Edwards Medical Center. “The hospital looks really good,” said delegation leader Jan Paternotte, Chairman of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations. On Tuesday, January 15, the renovated Medical Center will be officially opened.

Dr. Blaauboer informed the visiting delegation of the developments and challenges in health care. Large investments have been made in this area since Saba became a public entity of the Netherlands in October 2010. “We had to clear the backlogs and comply with the Dutch standards. After several years, we are finally able to open our renovated medical center.”

Medical Transport

The Members of Parliament specifically asked about the medical emergency transports by helicopter and the possibilities to make this more efficient in the interest of the patient. Dr. Blaauboer explained that emergency transports require a lot of logistics and that it involved two other airports besides the one on Saba: St. Eustatius where the helicopter is stationed and St. Maarten to where the patient is transported.

Including the transport by ambulance on St. Maarten, it takes about two hours to get an emergency patient from Saba at the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). The construction of a helipad at the new SMMC will shorten the trip somewhat. To further reduce the duration of the emergency transport, it would be a great asset if a helipad could be arranged in The Bottom. On average, there are three medical emergency transports per month, two in the day time and one in the night. 

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