All Hands on Deck at Sint Maarten Medical Center
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak of, Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) acted swiftly and decisively to implement and coordinate a response. SMMC is responsible for treating victims of the pandemic, not only from Sint Maarten, but also from neighboring Dutch Kingdom islands Saba and St. Eustatius. The Government of Sint Maarten, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), and the Sint Maarten Reconstruction, Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund have all contributed to efforts, including by setting up a Mobile Medical Pavilion, deploying additional medical staff, and purchasing medical equipment and medication.
Answers were based on information provided by Bonnie Dekker, Strategy & Business Development Manager, on behalf of SMMC.
Q: Which parties have supported Sint Maarten Medical Center in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and how?
A: The Government of Sint Maarten erected a large pavilion across from SMMC, called the Mobile Medical Pavilion. It has seven double-patient rooms and is used to give medium care to suspected and confirmed COVID patients who do not require intensive care and to triage patients with flu-like symptoms. Four additional mobile units have been placed at SMMC for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients.
For patients requiring intensive care, the Dutch Ministry of VWS provided an ICU Hospitainer, which has six ICU beds, each equipped with a ventilator. In addition, the Dutch Ministry supplied supplementary ventilators and funded most costs associated with the dispatch of the Aspen Medical International (AMI) group of thirty healthcare professionals.
The Sint Maarten Reconstruction, Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund is providing financing to the SMMC to purchase necessary medical equipment and medication needed to set-up and equip the Mobile Medical Pavilion, such as patient beds, a mobile x-ray device, a bronchoscope and an electrocardiogram machine. The Trust Fund also supported communication activities to educate the general public about COVID-19 and SMMC’s response to it. Extensive coordination efforts are also being conducted with the Dutch Ministry of Health and Interior on these needs.
Q: What were SMMC’s biggest challenges when the pandemic broke out?
A: The biggest concern since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was available capacity. SMMC anticipated having insufficient ICU beds and equipment, and in addition it foresaw not being able to secure enough staff to deal with the surge in COVID-19 patients. That is why the hospital asked for assistance in erecting the Mobile Medical Pavilion and ICU Hospitainer, staffing, and purchase of equipment and medications. SMMC is very grateful for all the support, both from local government, the Dutch Kingdom, and the World Bank.
Q: How does SMMC’s COVID-19 response impact the overall hospital operations?
In March, SMMC ceased elective medical procedures and consultations as a preventative measure to limit possible exposure to the virus. SMMC is now exploring possibilities to gradually resume regular operations of the hospital, once the conditions of the lockdown allow for this. The transfer of COVID care to the Medical Pavilion and the ICU Hospitainer was the first step. Now with COVID treatment contained to one particular zone, it will hopefully soon be possible for SMMC to start regular operations again.
Q: What is SMMC’s most important advice for the general public?
A: Since Sint Maarten is still registering new COVID cases and estimates many unregistered COVID cases in the community, SMMC would like to remind the people of Sint Maarten to register at CPS (call 914) if you or someone you know displays symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus (fever, cough, tiredness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell) and follow the general advice of social distancing and self-isolation. There is absolutely no shame in seeking care when you are sick. By doing so you are not only protecting yourself and your family, but also the rest of your community.