Referral pilot to SMMC shows promising results

The pilot pro­gramme to directly refer patients from Saba and St. Eustatius to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), without the interven­tion of Care and Youth Carib­bean Netherlands ZJCN, seems to have made the process more effective.

Dutch State Secretary of Pub­lic Health, Welfare and Sport Maarten van Ooijen stated this in an update letter on healthcare in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament.

In that letter, Van Ooijen ad­dressed the interim evaluation of the direct referrals pilot pro­gramme for Saba and St. Eusta­tius which started late last year. This programme made it pos­sible for general practitioners in St. Eustatius and Saba to directly refer a patient to SMMC for spe­cialist care, without the interven­tion of the ZJCN medical advice team.

“With a direct referral, the pro­fessional, say in the Caribbean Netherlands, is strengthened and it is expected that the process of St. Eustatius and Saba medical referrals is made easier and be­comes more patient-friendly,” said Van Ooijen.

He had promised the Second Chamber to have an inter­im evaluation of the refer­ral programme after three months, in anticipation of the main evaluation after six months. The interim evaluation, which was car­ried out by ZJCN together with the healthcare part­ners in Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten, took place in February 2023.

“The first results are cau­tiously positive and are based on the experiences and perception of the sec­tor partners. A good start has been made, but it is still too early to draw defi­nite conclusions. The first experiences do show that all parties are committed to make the programme a success,” said Van Ooijen.

“The referral process is handled more quickly without the intervention of the ZJCN medical advice team, which has a positive outcome for both the sec­tor partners and the work­load for the medical advice team. Also, the general practitioners experience more autonomy in their decision-taking,” he said.

However, the interim evaluation also showed that there is room for improve­ment, said Van Ooijen. “That is why, in the coming period, we will look at the effectiveness of medical re­ferrals, the communication between the sector part­ners and also towards the insured persons, as well as personnel deployment.”

The direct referral pilot only applies to services at SMMC. For referrals to all other care destinations in Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Co­lombia and the Netherlands the system will remain the same: on the indication of the attending specialist.

In the same letter, Van Ooijen mentioned the pilot programme whereby ZJCN has made an agreement with Windward Islands Airways International WI­NAIR in St. Maarten to reserve blocked seats for medical transports from Saba and St. Eustatius to St. Maarten. This pro­gramme started on April 1, 2023, and will end at the end of 2023.

Aside from buying the blocked seats on WINAIR flights during weekdays, ZJCN will keep making use of the existing charter flights on a smaller aircraft. To compensate for the loss of seats due to the blocked seats for medical transport, WINAIR has added flights to Saba and St. Eustatius.

The Daily Herald.

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