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Préfecture advises measures to stem bronchiolitis spread

MARIGOT--The Préfecture disclosed on Tuesday that health agency Agence Régional de Santé (ARS) has observed an outbreak of persons showing symptoms of bronchiolitis in St. Martin and St. Barths since the beginning of October.

It said figures were not yet of concern, but an increase of consultations with family doctors indicates it could evolve into an epidemic.

Bronchiolitis is an illness of the respiratory tract, an infection that affects the airways called the bronchioles that lead to the lungs. As these airways become inflamed, they swell and fill with mucus, which can make breathing difficult.

The virus starts from a simple cold followed by a cough. It usually lasts for about 12 days. The illness generally peaks on the second or third day after coughing begins, causing breathing difficulty before gradually subsiding.

The infections that cause bronchiolitis are contagious. The germs can spread in tiny drops of fluid from an infected person’s nose and mouth, which may become airborne via sneezes, coughs or laughs, and also can end up on things the person has touched such as used tissues or toys.

The best way to prevent the spread of viruses that cause bronchiolitis is frequent hand- washing with soap and water, especially before looking after a baby. It is also advisable to have a good flow of air through the room every day.

The Préfecture advises not to take infants to public places where they could come into contact with persons who have a cold; refrain from exchanging feeding bottles, lollipops, and unwashed cutlery in the family home, and do not expose infants to a smoky environment that will aggravate the illness.

Persons with a cold should always wear a face mask before handling a baby less than three months old. It is important not to kiss children on the face and instruct brothers and sisters not to do so.

Strict adherence to the above recommendations will reduce the necessity for hospital visits, the Préfecture concluded.

Ambulance duty officers receive disaster management training

page5e154ST. PETERS--The St. Maarten Ambulance Service is taking the next step in disaster management training and is increasing the preparedness of its staff for dealing with medical emergencies during disasters.

The White and Yellow Cross and the Netherlands Royal Marines assisted the St. Maarten Ambulance Service on Tuesday, during a special training session in which new medical duty officers ("officier van dienst – geneeskunde") had the chance to practice their leadership skills in a disaster scenario.

The Ambulance Service is currently in the process of training the four new medical duty officers. Medical duty officers are paramedics, who receive additional training to act as leaders and coordinators at the location of an incident. The training is geared towards acting at the scene of incidents during disasters, but can also be used in other scenarios where the ambulance service has to work together with the fire department or the police.

Project manager Lianne van Driel and trainer Hay Geurts are from Regional Ambulance Provision Brabant Mid West-North RAV, one of the largest ambulance services in the Netherlands. Van Driel is a project manager and Geurts is an expert trainer of medical duty officers in the Netherlands. The RAV is active in developing ambulance services on a national level and offers consultancy and training on international level.

The RAV assisted the St. Maarten Ambulance Service at the end of August for a week of orientation and disaster management training, which was funded by Dutch funding agency USONA. The RAV is currently conducting a follow-up training.

Talks are currently underway about possible continued cooperation between the two organisations. A multi-year plan has been proposed and discussions are ongoing between the parties including the Department of Health. Plans include a number of trainings to be organised each year for the next two to three years.

Van Driel said: "The training RAV offers is two-fold. First, to keep the staff up-to-date with all the latest techniques and knowledge and the latest developments, and second, to ensure that the ambulance service fits in well with the process of disaster management."

Van Driel explained that the training is not a one-off event. "It is a process of multiple trainings and we are looking towards a long-term cooperation. In the ambulance service, it is important that people keep their knowledge up to date. Training is important for that."

The four new medical duty officers, during their training, practised taking control of and coordinating the medical side of a disaster or emergency. This includes connecting with the police and the fire department. On Friday, large scale training will take place where the medical duty officers will be training together with the police and the fire department.

Two further blocks of training have been proposed to bring the medical duty officers up to a level that they can pass a similar exam to that completed by duty officers in the Netherlands. "It would be great if, in the future, there could be an exchange between Dutch and St. Maarten medical duty officers," Van Driel said. "To enable this, it is important that the local duty officers and the Dutch duty officers have a similar level of competence. But of course, the training here must be tailor-made for the circumstances on St. Maarten."

Aside from the four duty officers, RAV is also training local trainers. The organisation is also conducting two days of training on Ebola and hazardous chemicals. For this training, ambulance staff will be joined by staff of St. Maarten Medical Centre and SXM Princess Juliana International Airport.

Tuesday's training took place at the Sister Basilia Centre, which will also host Friday's training. The training showed that the location was excellent for use as an emergency field hospital.

Director of the White and Yellow Cross Bregje Boetekees said: "It is important for us to cooperate with this training. We have experience with disaster situations, because when flooding occurs we are often badly affected and closed-off from other areas. The White and Yellow cross is happy to assist."

Cylred Richardson, Director of the Ambulance Service, was also present during the training. He said, "In the process of disaster management, cooperation is extremely important. Situations are best resolved if all parties know exactly what their role is and how they can best work together. The Ambulance Service is committed to playing its role in this process and to offer the best training to its staff."

De Weever to take Bosman to court

PHILIPSBURG--Democratic Party (DP) Member of Parliament Cornelius de Weever is poised to take Dutch Parliament Second Chamber Member Andre Bosman to court over allegations Bosman made about him, as well as Bosman's refusal to retract his "slanderous" remarks about De Weever.

De Weever's attorney Jairo Bloem confirmed that a case against Bosman would be filed in the Netherlands. This comes after Bosman was quoted in an article in Antilliaans Dagblad on Tuesday, November 11, in which Bosman disputed receiving a letter calling on him to remedy his statement.

The liberal democratic VVD party member disputed in the article that he had received the first open letter, but admitted that he had received a second letter by e-mail.

Bosman is "first and foremost negating and backpedalling" on his published commitment to react to De Weever's request after conferring with his party, said Bloem in a third letter addressed to the Dutch politician dated November 17.

De Weever views Bosman's latest reactions to the calls for a retraction "as yet other attempts to evade the issue at hand and further unnecessarily delay matters. You had ample time to address your shortcomings," according to Bloem. "The summons sent and deadlines given are in conformity with the law. You are presently in default and client will consequently initiate proper legal procedures against you."

Bloem stated in this latest letter to Bosman on behalf of De Weever that Bosman contended that he was not bound, or did not feel bound, to respond to letters that were not delivered to him by registered mail.

"One and other, because matters can be put by anyone on the Internet and alleged un-clarity pertaining to the source. You were moreover quoted stating that it is unclear that our office represents Minister Cornelius de Weever, since the letters never stated such," said Bloem.

"There is no rule of law that compels client to send you a summons per registered mail. The mere fact that you are in receipt and able to take well notice of the letters, as is also evidenced from the 'proof of reading receipts,' your own public statements and response e-mail yesterday clearly show that you did receive client's e-mails and were able to take good notice of the content thereof," wrote Bloem.

The only reason the summons was not also sent to Bosman via registered mail is that De Weever did not possess Bosman's personal (house) address.

"Please rest assured that the court petition will be addressed to your home address and served personally to you," said Bloem.

First Caribbean changes terms regionally, outsources services

PHILIPSBURG--Regional CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank clients have received notice of outsourcing of particular functions and changes to conditions, which were described in a Barbadian newspaper as a "bombshell." The bank swiftly reacted to the news via its Website to address customer concerns.

The bank stated that the letter "is not a notice of any impending wide-scale changes to fees or interest rates, but speaks generally to the possibility of future changes" and that "centralised processing of client transactions ... is standard" in the industry.

Attempts to reach local bank management proved futile, but the few customers The Daily Herald could reach said they had not received notice of any changes. In line with industry standards, any changes become effective 30 days after notification.

However, one lawyer contacted by this newspaper pointed out that contracts could not just be changed unilaterally. "That requires authorisation from the other party," wrote Wim van Sambeek in an e-mail from The Netherlands. "In really exceptional circumstances you can – simply put – request a change. But even then the principle stands that agreements should be kept."

The article by Nation News dated November 14 said the bank was "about to hit thousands of its customers with a dramatic change in their relationship." Customers reportedly received notice that the bank would "outsource all lending, account and client information from all its banks in the region to third parties in another country, who will now be processing it."

In addition, the bank said it wanted to change all the contractual arrangements that clients originally had signed, to allow the bank to "unilaterally change any of the terms of [your] account opening agreement or any other of its agreement with [you] applicable to interest rates, fees, charges, or overdraft limits at any time in the future; and such changes will be deemed to have been unequivocally accepted by [you]."

The article further quoted a letter concerning fees, signed by Managing Director for retail, wealth, businesses and international banking Mark St. Hill: "The bank may change applicable fees, charges, overdraft limits at any time in the future and notify [you] by any means of public or private notification." After 30 days, changes will have been deemed "unequivocally accepted" by customers.

The bank issued a news release dated the same day on its Website to address concerns resulting from its letters to clients.

"All accounts opened after 2007 are already signatories to this agreement – the correspondence was sent to customers whose accounts were opened prior to 2007 and is designed to bring these account agreements up-to-date in line with the account mandate..."

FirstCaribbean said the letter was "not a notice of any impending wide-scale changes to fees or interest rates," and that "fees are reviewed at intervals and are adjusted – upwards or downwards – in line with a number of conditions within a particular jurisdiction. Should there be an adjustment to any fees or rates in the future, this would of course be done with the appropriate notice to both our regulators and our customers, as is customary."

Addressing the outsourcing concern, the bank said this had been approved by regulators and was necessary to improve "efficiency in delivering quality banking services." It was not clear to what regulators the bank was referring.

"There is no change to the way our customers operate or access their accounts. Their funds remain accessible through the usual customer channels..." It further stated that centralised processing, "including through third parties, is standard across financial institutions and other companies, both inside the Caribbean and beyond."

It could not be ascertained whether the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten would accept a similar outsourcing under its jurisdiction. Officials of the bank could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

FirstCaribbean Bank assured that "information will be accessed by a highly trained, competent workforce who adheres to the highest standards of confidentiality" and that it made "every reasonable effort to prevent unauthorised use, sharing, loss or theft of information."

Lake: Concrete actions planned in disaster management meeting

PHILIPSBURG--A disaster management, planning and response meeting between initiator Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure VROMI Maurice Lake and various stakeholders has led to concrete actions being drafted, according to a VROMI press release issued shortly after the meeting took place at Dr. A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall on Monday, November 17.

"My ministry is reviewing the national drainage plan and will be presenting to the Council of Ministers a revised plan along with a budget in order to start to address these challenges. UNESCO reports made a number of recommendations and we need to implement these and make sure the available financial resources are there to execute the projects," said Minister Lake, who chaired the meeting.

Officials of the Office of Disaster Management, the Disaster Coordinator, Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs, water and electricity company GEBE, VROMI, the St. Maarten Meteorological Department, the Department of Communication DComm, and the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association were present for the meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson was also in attendance and spoke of his experience with 1995 Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn.

It was stated during the discussion that the country's water management infrastructure such as trenches and drains had been built to alleviate flooding, not to prevent it. They were built according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) study recommendations based on 20-, 50- and 100-year storm scenarios, the press release stated.

One conclusion was that the country's drainage plans need to be reviewed and building on hillsides and near drains and waterways needs to be looked at when it comes to spatial planning.

"Funding allocation for the post-disaster phase will also be addressed in a structural manner, along with a quick disbursement of funds to contractors who assist with the cleanup," Lake said.

"Internal and external communication are other areas to be addressed as well. The shortcomings due to infrastructure failure and the use of other communication avenues will be explored and executed.

"Public complacency was also discussed and how to address this will also be executed by the respective government agency. NV GEBE will work closely with Ministry VROMI to address challenges that were confronted with flooding where certain parts of NV GEBE infrastructure were partially submerged.

"The Marine Trades Association also made a valuable contribution where they spoke about vessels that needed to enter the Simpson Bay Lagoon and where these vessels should be moored within the Lagoon. A plan is also needed on how this should be done and where, and timely communication with mariners with respect to bridge openings. A mandatory vessel evacuation plan will also be reviewed.

"It was a very constructive meeting with an outcome of what actions need to be taken to address the challenges that were confronted in two weather-related events.

"Disaster Coordinator Clive Richardson also informed the group that the new Council of Ministers will receive a presentation about the national Disaster Management system. I am very pleased with the meeting and we achieved a lot," Lake concluded.

In the wake of the recent torrential rainfall early November and Hurricane Gonzalo mid-October, the outgoing VROMI Minister had said he wanted to address a number of areas where he saw room for improvement and wanted to hear from the stakeholders how these could be better addressed and dealt with, prior to the next hurricane season or weather-related event.

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