The The Daily Herald writes that the Health Care Insurance Office ZVK arranged more than 7,000 medical referrals for patients in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in 2013. The majority of the referrals were to Aruba, Curaçao, Colombia and the Netherlands, stated Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday. The minister did so in response to written questions submitted by Member of the Second Chamber Lea Bouwmeester of the Labour Party PvdA in relation to media reports about the apparent increasing criticism on the way the ZVK handles medical referrals.
ZVK received 53 complaints in 2013, of which 36 on Bonaire, 10 on St. Eustatius and seven on Saba. 15 complaints were found invalid on Bonaire, while four are still being handled. Three complaints were found invalid on St. Eustatius and three on Saba. Four complaints in total for these two islands are currently being looked at.
The complaints related to submitted declarations, the Colombia insurance company Coomeva that has been contracted to arrange the logistics of the medical referrals of Caribbean Netherlands patients to Colombia, and the services provided by ZVK.
The process of medical referrals from the islands to hospitals in other countries is a complex and time consuming affair, stated Schippers, who admitted that the service by ZVK could be more efficient in certain areas. ZKV is currently undergoing a major improvement exercise which should be completed this year. Also, the Audit Service of the Dutch Government “intensively” checks the legitimacy of procedures at ZVK, but in order to receive an approved accountants declaration, a “certain degree of bureaucracy will be unavoidable,” stated Schippers. “Such control structures are not yet very common in the Caribbean Netherlands,” she clarified. The minister referred to a survey among 110 patients regarding the service provided by Coomeva in relation to the waiting time, the quality of the hotel and the arranging of transport.
In general, most of the interviewed patients were satisfied with Coomeva’s service. “An often heard complaint is that the stay in Colombia is too long. Efforts are being made to reduce this as much as possible,” stated Schippers. A number of measures have been taken to improve the logistics and to reduce the length of stay of the medical referrals. There are two flights per week from Curaçao to Medellín. Patients no longer travel to Colombia on a Friday to prevent unnecessary waiting over the weekend and the days after. Patients also only fly to Colombia when they have an actual appointment at the hospital. ZVK is working on the issue of late payment of the daily allowance and the lack of information provided by the office, as perceived by more than a quarter of the patients.