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Dutch minister Schippers called to Senate to explain BES health care cuts

FRIDAY, 18 JANUARY 2013

THE HAGUE–The First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will meet with Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers next week Tuesday to discuss the cutbacks in the health care package for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The Senate’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations unanimously agreed during a meeting on Tuesday to call Minister Schippers to Parliament for a formal discussion on January 22 to talk about her December 21, 2012 decision to eliminate a number of medical treatments from the health care package in the Caribbean Netherlands.

The Committee has also invited Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk for an informal talk on February 5, after he has returned from his first official visit to the Dutch Caribbean.

Committee members unanimously agree that the move by Minister Schippers is unacceptable. “We want to hear the Minister’s arguments for implementing this measure. The Minister said the measure was necessary because health care costs have soared. We want to know why and how,” said Committee Chairlady Marijke Linthorst of the Labour Party PvdA on Thursday.

“It is unacceptable that the Minister took such a decision with far-reaching consequences without prior consultation with the islands. It shouldn’t be too hard to call and check first before. There was no communication and as Senate we lament that very much,” Linthorst told The Daily Herald.

“When it serves The Hague, the islands are not Dutch territory, by for example excluding them from the Dutch children’s allowance (kinderbijslag). But now all of a sudden in this case they are on the same level as The Netherlands. The Hague has adopted the islands but treats them as stepchildren,” said Linthorst.

“We don’t think that the Minister fully realised that the services of a physical therapist might completely disappear from an island if there is not enough work for that person. That would be disastrous for the residents of that island,” said Linthorst.

According to the Chairlady the Minister’s decision is a Dutch measure applied from the perspective of The Hague that insufficiently takes the small scale and the local situation on the islands into account. “It is almost autistic,” she said.
The Senate’s Committee visited the islands earlier this month and was able to take notice first hand of the adverse consequences of the Minister’s decision for the residents of the Caribbean Netherlands.

The local governments informed the Senate’s delegation of their objections and so did several residents during the meet and greet meetings on the various islands. The Senate was also informed that unlike in The Netherlands, residents could not take additional health insurance and they didn’t have the opportunity to switch to another health care provider.
The Senate is further “extremely worried” about the decreasing purchasing power of people in the Caribbean Netherlands and the high prices. “Something has to happen. People can’t manage,” said Linthorst. The Senate wants a study of the minimum cost of living on the islands so things can be put in perspective.

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