The completion of an Auxiliary Care Facility (AFC) at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) reported in today’s paper is obviously good news. For starters, this helps keep coronavirus out of the hospital and thus reduces the contamination risk to staff, other patients and visitors alike.
Perhaps more significantly, it enhances the local capacity to handle COVID-19 cases which prevents people from getting extremely sick or even dying due to a lack of – for example – Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds with ventilators. Compared to the former pavilion, the complex consisting of containers welded together and anchored to a solid concrete foundation is also storm-resistant, although in the event of a direct hurricane threat its patients would be moved inside SMMC.
The bigger picture is that chances of overburdening existing healthcare resources in the country should there be a spike of infections has now become much smaller. This allows for better risk management and decision-taking on matters like recently extending the term for persons flying to St. Maarten to obtain a negative PCR-test result from three to five days before departure.
However, all these additional precautions need to be paid for and that makes it sensible to introduce a special COVID-19 insurance for guests to offset the associated cost, as was done in Aruba. Many questions are being asked about tourists with existing travel insurance or a medical evacuation subscription, et cetera, but the policy covers specific pandemic-related matters such as repeated testing, transport, quarantining, isolation and repatriation.
In addition, this remains a work in progress with details still being ironed out. Rather than seeing it as a negative, such a move can also provide potential visitors with some reassurance that they will not be stuck with unexpected high expenses while on the island, enabling them to have a more worry-free vacation.