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Blood-glucose testing again biggest draw at Lions’ Fair

page1a265page10a265page10b265page10c265by Duane Robin

PHILIPSBURG--Hundreds visited Saturday's health fair for free blood, tooth and eye tests. Most of the attendees wanted to find out whether they were diabetic.

St. Maarten Lions Club called its second annual Health and Wellness Fair a success, citing the more than 600 men, women and children who had check-ups and received information sheets at the St. Maarten Festival Village that day.

The fair's longest lines again led to diabetes testing and counselling.

"It is important for us to provide this service. Diabetes is on the rise in the Caribbean, and St. Maarten is no exception," Diabetes Foundation of St. Maarten (DFS) President Charlotte "Lotty" Peterson said Saturday.

Residents young and old sat for finger-prick tests of their glucose and cholesterol levels, along with checks of their weight and blood pressure. Volunteers had checked 350 persons by the end of the day.

Peterson said people usually underestimated the damage that could result from high blood sugar, adding that early detection was important to staving off later problems.

"Diabetes is an illness that doesn't always make you sick. Sometimes, when they do get diagnosed, the period of 10-12 years has passed and they get the complications," she said, pressing for persons, especially high-risk people who are obese or have diabetes in the family, to be tested.

Many visitors lined up for eye checks and HIV tests (see related story), the other two major draws at the fair. More than 60 children were vaccinated by government's Youth Healthcare Department.

Some 80 persons had their eyes tested, and another 50 will have free testing in the coming weeks, according to the Lions in a statement Sunday.

About 240 adults and teens were tested for HIV.

Dentist Dr. Hilda Guevara checked the teeth of 52 young children and stated that only a few of them had anything to worry about. "I'm happy that about 50 per cent of the kids are cavity-free; the problems are not that bad. The main idea is that they are not afraid of the dental office," she said.

However, the fair was not only geared at testing for illnesses. Ambulance and ICU nurses talked about their professions and taught CPR techniques. Other facilitators at the fair talked about preventing common but disastrous diseases.

Ladies of the breast cancer awareness group Positive Foundation informed women on how to ensure they know how to check that their breasts are safe. "We handed out shower guides, information booklets. Today, we just showed women how to do their monthly breast self-examinations. We had diverse age groups of women, middle-aged women, older women, and women from different parts of the community," said President Shelly Alphonso.

Coach Les Brown set up nets, balls and other sports equipment, while Motiance Dance School demonstrated yoga. "We're trying to bring the awareness of getting the children to move a little more," said Brown, a trainer and head of government's Sports Department. Brown is pushing for more adult-child sports programmes to allow parents to play with their children.

"The parents bring their children, drop them off and leave them there. What we would like to have is the parents and the kids together in the different programmes so they can interact. That motivates the child," Brown said.

The number of persons who attended the wellness fair spoke for itself. Whether or not they could pay for it themselves "the need is big for this kind of healthcare," Lions President Richard Panneflek said.

Organising committee Chairman Lion Wally Havertong hailed the event's new tests, such as glaucoma screening and dental checkups, and better booth placement as the biggest changes to the fair. "I think it has been an improvement from last year. We had much more to offer ... and people made good use of the opportunity to get their tests," Havertong told The Daily Herald.

Lions ran an aggressive marketing campaign in the weeks ahead of the fair, flooding media houses with information about the free tests and urging everyone who could or could not afford healthcare to attend.

"It was great; people came out and got the information they needed to get. We can be satisfied, honestly," Havertong said.

Service level agreement with SVB pending new insurance system

~Sarah queries new system ~

PHILIPSBURG--Government will enter into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Social Insurance Bank SVB Curaçao and health cost BZV to continue offering services pending the working out of the new National Health Insurance System (NHIS) for Country St. Maarten.

The SLA will be worked out during the second quarter of 2010. It is expected to go into effect when St. Maarten assumes its new status as country within the kingdom on October 10, 2010.

The new health insurance system is expected to go into effect on January 1, 2012, based on advice from the advisory committee for more time to prepare this important reform. Once this has been worked out, details of the new system will be presented to the Island Council for decision making, the National Alliance/Heyliger government, which has been in office for nine months, told the Island Council last Thursday.

In a press release issued on Sunday, Democratic Party (DP) leader and Councilwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams posed several questions on the issue, saying that her faction is concerned.

Entering a service level agreement is in keeping with government's move to work out agreements for the areas St. Maarten will not readily assume when it achieves its new status.

During last Thursday's Island Council debate, government explained that the SLA between St. Maarten and Curaçao would be detailed during the second quarter of 2010 to go into effect as of 10-10-10.

The SLA with SVB Curaçao and BZV is intended for the health funds to be managed by one organisation. The Island Government of St. Maarten has already provided job guarantee to all SVB workers.

In her release on Sunday, Wescot-Williams explained her party's concerns. "Going into the second quarter of 2010, the only thing the government seems to know with certainty is that the National Health Insurance [System] will not be in place for 10-10-10," she said.

Wescot-Williams said the plans outlined by the National Alliance/Heyliger government, regarding the service level agreement, are "not yet definite" as "consultations are ongoing about future intentions and discontinuation of activities due to NHIS."

"However, it is clear that SVB Curaçao and BZV will merge. The NHIS is not expected to go into effect until 01-01-2012. What the SLA with SVB Curaçao will regulate and how the SLA will work, government does not know. They will work out in the second quarter of 2010," she said in her release.

"Yet the government anticipates that all premiums will remain on St. Maarten after obtaining country status and the funds will be controlled by institutions set up or governed/ controlled by St. Maarten," Wescot-Williams said.

She continued: "St. Maarten's share in the SVB Netherlands Antilles assets has been calculated at approximately 150 million guilders.... Will the division of assets and liabilities of the SVB Netherlands Antilles take place per 10-10-10 and if so, will this money be put in escrow until the NHIS is in place or will government consider this decentralisation cost/revenue for its budget?" she questioned.

"Will the division not take place, because of the SLA? The government would not know this, as they don't know the scope of the SLA at this time... Government is awaiting the appointment of a new project manager for the NHIS before anything can be submitted to the Island Council, outlining government's intention for the NHIS," Wescot-Williams added.

She said government seems to be taking the health of the population very lightly. "As far as the SVB service to St. Maarten is concerned, will it, in the end, only be the replacement of the Netherlands Antilles with Curaçao giving service to St. Maarten?," she asked.

She also asked whether government could indicate what is in store as far as health coverage is concerned.

Budget debate resumes today

PHILIPSBURG--The Island Council debate on the draft 2010 budget continues this afternoon in Dr. A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall. The council is expected to vote on the balanced draft budget of NAf. 323.6 million.

The debate is close to its conclusion, with the Executive Council set to give answers to a number of additional questions posed by opposition Democratic Party (DP) and independent Island Councilman Louie Laveist.

Also scheduled to be voted on are the seven amendments tabled by Finance Commissioner Xavier Blackman along with the budget.

Amendments include the removal of all income and expenditures associated with the takeover of tasks from the Central Government, adjustments to profit tax revenues, the "temporary" removal of the Mary's Fancy Estate purchase, and funds for the new Tax Department Tower (Block D) of the new Government Administration Building on Pond Island.

The budget debate started a week ago. It opened last week Monday with the Island Council members receiving a third draft of the budget and the seven amendments.

After a three-hour adjournment requested by DP to review the document, the debate continued with the opposition posing 145 questions. These were in addition to the more than 200 posed in the Central Committee and afterwards.

The meeting was then adjourned until Thursday to give the civil servants time to research and answer the questions for presentation to the council by the commissioners.

When the meeting continued on Thursday there was much controversy which started with the Executive Council opting to stick rigidly to the Rules of Order and not provide the opposition with answers to their questions in writing. National Alliance (NA) leader Commissioner William Marlin insisted that the Executive Council was under no obligation to provide the answers to the council in writing.

When the debate resumes at 2:00pm today, the council will also have before it two motions tabled by the DP – one by Councilman Roy Marlin to instruct the Executive Council to reaffirm its commitment to the letters of comfort issued to The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, and the other by Councilman Leroy de Weever expressing no-confidence in Finance Commissioner Xavier Blackman.

Parliament to supervise dismantling of Antilles

page15a265WILLEMSTAD--Members of what is intended to be the last Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles, when taking the oath before Governor Frits Goedgedrag, were told on this "historic day" that their main task would be to supervise the dismantling process.

Goedgedrag said the elected members being installed would have to look for a new occupation at the end of the year, "just like myself."

The governor reminded those present that it had been the intention that the former Parliament would be the last of the Antilles, but the dismantling process and start-up of the new constitutional entities had eventually appeared "too tough."

It is now up to this Parliament to guide the completion of this process and "to care for the wellbeing of the citizens of all Antillean islands up to the end of the Antilles," Goedgedrag said.

The Parliament of 22 members is chaired by Pedro Atacho (PAR), who was re-elected as such. Faroe Metry (PNP) is vice-chairman.

PAR has the largest faction (six seats), consisting of Atacho, Glenn Sulvaran, Sedney Ignacio, Malvina Cicilia, Marlon Jamaloodin and Eduard Braam.

The combined MAN/NPA/FK "Lista di Kambio" (LdK) faction has five members, but the leaders of NPA and FK – Nelson Pierre and Gregory Damoen, respectively – indicated they preferred to be independent members.

MAN will then remain the only party of the LdK faction, with members Eunice Eisden, Gerrit Schotte and Gassan Dannawi.

The other two Curaçao factions are "Pueblo Soberano" (PS) with members Helmin Wiels and Lia Willems, and PNP with only one seat occupied by Metry.

National Alliance (NA) has all three seats for St. Maarten. Its faction consists of Henrietta Doran-York, Rodolphe Samuel and George Pantophlet.

Ramonsito Booi and James Kroon of UPB will occupy two of Bonaire's three seats, while Robby Beukenboom will hold the third seat for ADB.

Reginald Zaandam is back in Parliament on behalf of DP Statia, while Will Johnson represents Windward Islands People's Movement (WIPM) of Saba.

ExCo to decide on new plan, approach for Festival Village

PHILIPSBURG--A new management policy for Stichting Overheids Gebouwen (SOG), the foundation that manages the Festival Village and other government buildings, is currently being finalised by the SOG board and will be submitted to the Executive Council for approval.

SOG's projected target date to have this new management policy plan completed is one month. The foundation gave an estimate of NAf. 380,000 on the 2010 budget for the execution of the new plan.

Structural maintenance of the Festival Village is included in this new plan, something the foundation cannot carry out at present because of lack of funding. Another key aspect of the plan is the amount that will be charged to organisers of events who wish to use the facility.

The purpose of the restructured fees in the plan is primarily to increase the usage of the Village, a facility which some in the community have dubbed the "second white elephant right across from the first" (the new Administration Building).

In its three-year history, besides Carnival and a handful of other events, the Festival Village has not fulfilled its hyped potential as St. Maarten's premier venue for all events, big or small.

SOG Vice President Kurt Ruan said last year, "Our intention is to offer more affordable prices and/or affordable package deals to the general public. At present, the Executive Council sets the prices for use of the Village. We believe that some adjustment in prices can be made to increase utilisation of the Village."

At present, the pricing is determined based on the price of tickets for any given event. Events that are free or have tickets priced at US $5 have to pay $2,500 to use the Village. If the entrance fee is between $6 and $10, the user has to pay $3,500; between $11 and $20, the price goes up to $5,000; and if entrance fees are $21 and up, the Village cost is $7,500. These fees do not include sound, light, and security services.

To support this new plan, the foundation held an open bidding for light, sound, security, marketing, cleaning, garbage collection, and pest control service providers.

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