Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk has dismissed complaints about the medical evacuation helicopter for St. Eustatius and Saba, writes The Daily Herald. Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA brought up the issue during a general debate with the minister on Thursday, about the Caribbean Netherlands. According to Van Raak and Van Laar the current helicopter was too small. Corpulent patients or accompanying nursing personnel do not fit in it, while the legs of the patient for example cannot be reached during the flight. It is also impossible for a family member or friend to accompany the patient. “We were told that securing the services of the Coast Guard helicopter was too expensive, but fact is that the current helicopter is too small. We are paying money for a service that is not what it should be,” said Van Raak.
The contract with the current helicopter service provider, National Helicopters Inc. from Canada ended on April 1, this year. The Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports VWS has been negotiating for a new contract. Minister Plasterk did not want to divulge any information since these negotiations had not been concluded. He said the current helicopter was well-equipped and available 24/7. He agreed with the Members of Parliament (MPs) that the services offered by the helicopter needed to be adequate. He promised to relay the complaints to his colleague Edith Schippers of Public Health.
Van Raak also inquired about the Road Fund St. Eustatius and the payment of monies, about US $500,000, allocated for this fund for other purposes. “The fund has been used to pay personnel that have nothing to do with the roads,” he said. Plasterk said he, too, was concerned about this matter and that he had discussed this with Statia’s Executive Council. Van Raak further asked about the negotiations with NuStar and the new contract for the facilities in St. Eustatius where it comes to taxes. “Is NuStar finally going to pay a decent amount of taxes?” Plasterk said the negotiations with the Caribbean Netherlands Tax Department were ongoing. Van Raak asked support for the wish of the Saba Government to decide whether it wanted to spend part of the funds of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, dedicated for nature projects, on agricultural projects. He said the agricultural projects were important for Saba. Plasterk explained that the ministry was looking into whether the nature funds could be used for this purpose.