Address Healthcare Seminar Alida Francis, Government Commissioner May 12th, 2022, St. Eustatius

It was just three short weeks ago that we received the devastating news of the death of one of our bright young professionals.

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On the picture : Government Commissioner Ms Alida Francis

Solandy Sanchez’s passing - at a still tender age - was crushing for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that her immense potential was left untapped, her dreams were left unfulfilled.

I’ll have more to say about Solandy when I pay tribute to her at the appropriate time, but her death and that of several other patients - many whom you may have known, and some of whom you might have treated - signal an alarm that all is not well with our health care system.

It’s a system that’s perfect in its ideals - that everyone, no matter their class, status or standing - receives timely, adequate, affordable care.

But there’s so much that’s lacking in its application, including the unacceptably huge backlog of medical referrals for specialist and extra specialist care that have catastrophic results.

One death because of these backlogs is one too many. We can and must do better!

The pain, the grief, the sense of loss, the anguish and the anger experienced by families and loved ones of the victims often bury our instinctive sense of gratitude for the work you as health care professionals do.

Every one of you is drawn to this profession because of your strong desire to care, to serve, to help, to heal. Yours is a daunting task, and often a turbulent one. You sometimes work in less-than-ideal conditions that drain your energy and challenge your inner strength, but never dent your will, or your commitment, or your spirit.

How many of us have the strength of character and the internal constitution to witness the things you experience daily and not be severely impacted mentally, or emotionally?

Sick and dying patients seeking solace, families praying for miracles that do not happen, vulnerable humans deteriorating before your very eyes.

These are some of the scenes that you as health care professionals encounter daily. And yet you continue - caring, nurturing, consoling, and healing where possible.

Few could do what you do and not be traumatized. In fact, please allow me to paraphrase Rawsi Williams, the American registered nurse and professional speaker at health care conferences, by stating emphatically that you do what no one else will do, in a way that nobody else can, despite everything you go through.

And for this, we thank you. Sincerely.

Nowhere have your strength, courage and dedication been more apparent that during the last two-plus years when the worst enemy we’ve encountered in a lifetime unleashed its deadly wrath upon us.

We shall long remember the extraordinary sacrifices that you made during COVID-19- even at the risk of your own lives and the lives of your families and loved ones - to keep us safe.

We shall not soon forget the long days and even longer nights you put in, leaving your children and spouses at home, so you could care for those who needed it

We will never forget how much you gave of yourself so you can make the pain bearable for patients and families alike.

However, to ensure that your sacrifices are not in vain, your efforts are not wasted, or your legacy does not perish in a raging ocean of despair, we must tackle the issues facing our health care system that hang over us like the modern-day sword of Damocles.

Like the ebullience of hope to which Dr. Martin Luther King referred in his April 1967 speech at Stanford University in the United States, our health insurance coverage is among the best in the region.

But Dr. King also warned of this ebullience of hope becoming fatigue of despair. This is what we risk with the health care system if we do not ensure that the people it is designed to benefit have easy and timely access to it.

Now is the time to conduct a thorough examination of ourselves to discover the inner barriers to progress in this regard.

Now is the time to ask, how long must we allow our people to suffer, and, sadly, to die, before we recognize that it’s only if we work as one team - doctors and nurses, hospitals and hospital administrators, policymakers and patients, health care providers and health insurance suppliers - only then will we find workable solutions to the dangerous and deadly log jams.

Now is the time to ask ourselves, how long must we keep pointing fingers at each other instead of sitting together in search of one goal, one destiny?

Let us hope that we all conclude, as Dr. King said in his March 1965 speech in Selma, Alabama, not long. Not long because we cannot maintain this division, the finger pointing, the lack of coordination forever.

Not long, because we will reap what we sow - and what we must aim to reap is a better life and accessible health care for every resident of Statia, Saba and Bonaire.

Not long, because for the sake of those for whom we care, those we help, and those we heal, we must trust each other and collaborate with each other.

As you deliberate during this seminar, it is important that you emerge with a clear, practical plan that will instill confidence in our communities that we are willing, prepared and committed to coordinate our efforts better so patients can feel safe and cared for.

This is as good a time as any to examine the most vexing concerns:

Are General Practitioners listening to their patients?

Are the patients providing their GPs with the right and complete information?

How are we managing complaints? And do we dismiss complaints from patients based on who they are?

These are all critical questions that require urgent and honest responses if we are to instill confidence in the people whom we serve - confidence that we know what we are doing and that we care.

It has been 12 years since the introduction of this general health insurance system. It is time we get it right!