St. Maarten Prime Minister: Issues with Medivac at airport unsubstantiated

POSTED: 03/22/13 1:48 PM

St. Maarten – Claims made by Saba and St. Eustatius that the St. Maarten airport is not cooperating with them with regard to medical evacuations are unsubstantiated, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said on Wednesday. Following a letter written by the Minister of Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk based on the complaints he had received from citizens of the two Dutch public entities, the Council of Ministers contacted the airport to get its version of the situation.
“Questions were asked to airport officials as well as the company that runs the helicopter. The allegations regarding non-cooperation by the airport with the helicopter landing, fuel, taking off etc, in time, those allegations could not be substantiated. The airport authorities are unaware of any problems regarding the landing, taking off and fueling especially as the time is concerned with the helicopter that does medical evacuation,” the prime minister stated.
The letter which Plasterk wrote to St. Maarten was released to the Dutch media. Dated, February 8, the letter he penned asked that St. Maarten drop the turnover tax on goods that are exported to Saba and Statia, stop frustrating medical emergency helicopter transport from these islands, lower Winair tariffs for flights to Saba and Statia and allow the landing the fiber optic cable that currently connects the two small islands with St. Kitts.
St. Maarten was expected to send a formal response to his letter but the prime minister said that based on recent discussions, the process has gone official correspondences on the country’s position.
“The letter did not officially go out yet because we were collecting the information from the different sources on the matter of Winair, the helicopter and the taxes. So while unofficially we have given Minister Plasterk a response, the letter on the basis of his letter has not yet formally gone out.
During his recent discussions in the Netherlands Finance Minister Roland Tuitt agreed to the establishment of a committee between the Ministry of Kingdom Relations and St. Maarten to work out proposed solutions on the issues of concern for Saba and Eustatius as well as St. Maarten. In this regard, “the letter itself is no longer necessary but I am still going to document it.”

St. Maarten Medical Centre
The prime minister also commented statements made last week by Statia Commissioner Koos Sneek that along with the Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports VWS, the islands are currently seeking a direct flight to Statia to Bonaire, so that patients can receive medical treatment instead of coming to St. Maarten. The public entities cited the lack of specialist care at the St. Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) as well as inefficiency in medical evacuations as reasons for seeking a different option.
The prime minister admitted that although she is aware of the comment she did not read the specific report within which Sneek was said to have made those remarks.
“The Dutch minister on behalf of these islands, as well as representatives of the two islands has expressed their desire to contribute to the expansion of the medical center in order to ensure that the services that are required by Saba and Statia are there for the patients from Saba and Statia. On more than one occasion the Dutch minister who speaks on behalf of these islands has indicated that he is willing to work with St. Maarten that relates to the expansion of the medical center as soon as possible. Because what all parties do agree to is that if at all possible Saba and Statia would prefer to send their patients to. St. Maarten,” the prime minister stated.

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