photo: Tim van Dijk

THE BOTTOM – After almost a year of renovating, Saba with its nearly 2000 inhabitants, will have a new medical center. The Netherlands allocated 1.2 million dollars (about 1.1 million euros) for this project.

The new medical center has eight beds in total and is manned 24/7 to provide first aid. Surgical and specialist procedures are carried out at the Sint Maarten Medical Center. In the event of an emergency the medivac helicopter has to fly in from Statia. “We are very happy with the new medical center but a helipad next to the medical center is still on our wish list”, says Joka Blaauboer from the Board of Directors of Saba Health Care.

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By Tim van Dijk (English subtitles available)

The medivac chopper out of Statia takes 45 minutes to fly to Saba’s airport. The patient is then transported from the medical center to the airport on ‘The Road’ – with its huge differences in elevation – by ambulance, a drive which takes 25 minutes. The flight time to the Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten is 20 minutes after which the patient has to be transported to the Sint Maarten Medical Center by ambulance, which takes another 15 minutes.

Director of the Medical Center Joka Blaauboer. Picture: Tim van Dijk

Medical Dispatches
There were 1642 medical dispatches (both emergency and non-emergency dispatches) in 2018 from Saba, according to Bob Harms at the Zorgverzekeringskantoor (ZVK) BES. Most of these dispatches were to Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, followed by Colombia, Guadeloupe, and the Netherlands.

Blaauboer hopes that a helipad on Saba and one next to the Sint Maarten Medical Center will be taken along in Sint Maarten’s new hospital plans.

The opening of the new medical center was carried out by Blaauboer and the deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Gea van Craaikamp. Two years ago plans were presented to improve the Medical Center. There are three specialized general practitioners from the Netherlands and nineteen nurses working at the center, who also do house calls.

Saba has had a hospital since 1925. The A.M. Edwards Medical Center in The Bottom opened its doors on March 1st 1980 and was renovated in 1998 after hurricane George blew away its entire roof. The last renovations happened in 2012 when the X-ray room, electrical systems, ambulances, mortuary, and offices were renovated.

The Netherlands invested more than 1.1 million euros to strengthen the building to protect it against natural disasters. An electronic fire prevention and an air conditioning system were also installed along with a quarantine room for patients with potential bacterial infections.