photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – The Sint Martin’s Home is Dutch St Maarten’s only residential care home for the elderly run by White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF). Yesterday, they confirmed that two staff members and one resident have contracted the coronavirus and as a result 14 nurses have been placed into quarantine.

Since these nurses have not been able to work employees have been working over-time and extra staff on call are making up the shortfall.

The infected resident was admitted into St.Maarten Medical Center. Directly involved residents and family have been informed, and CPS was immediately contacted. They have started source and contact tracing.

The coronavirus patient is a resident of the elderly care facility which is split into three different wings. Before the pandemic nurses would work between these different areas, a practice the WYCCF says has now been minimised as much as possible to prevent the spread of the disease should any other residents or staff contract the virus.

‘Many, many preventative actions’
Bregje Boetekees, manager of the WYCCF felt well prepared for coronavirus back in March. “Over these last few months we have taken many, many preventative actions to avoid contamination.”

One major concern for staff working in care facilities is the spread of the virus amongst colleagues during hand overs and meetings. As a preventative measure WYCCF have erected tents and gazebos outside the care facility to allow minimal numbers of staff to exchange reports and notes whilst maintaining hygiene and social distance. Rotations of nursing staff amongst different health care institutions on the island, such as St Maarten Medical Centre has also been stopped.

Care home closed for visitors
Family members of the care home residents confirm they have been contacted by management from WYCCF following their statement confirming the corona virus cases. Patricia Zamore’s mother is currently a resident at The Sint Martin’s home. Since the first lock down in June, Patricia has only been able to see her mother for a few hours as the care home is now closed to visitors. She believes there is nothing to be fearful about and is happy with the levels of care and measures taken by the home to keep her mother safe.

In March, the care home was unable to source any PPE, since then they have been given supplies from the Ministry of Health in The Netherlands which ‘have been a lifesaver’. One of WYCCF’s biggest challenges is getting the correct medical surgical masks and nitrile gloves. Procurement of them are becoming more difficult to source as there are growing shortages in the products required to make them.

High costs to combat Covid
The Foundation is also concerned with the mounting costs of products required to combat Covid-19 which have not been budgeted for. For example, it is costing The WYCCF $25,000 per month for the staff working in the home to continually wear masks. “Eventually this is going to have tremendous financial consequences, not only on us, but on every health care institute on the island.”