Growing discomfort among seniors

POSTED: 01/31/14 1:24 AM

St. Maarten – There is growing discomfort among the ranks of senior citizens over several concerns, among which are quality healthcare affordability and the rising cost of living.

So says first vice president of the St. Maarten Senior and Pensioners Association (SMSPA) drs. Raymond Jessurun.

Jessurun highlighted a mountain of issues and injustices, he indicated, were plaguing the elderly at yesterday’s SMSPA New Year’s Conference. Under the theme What Seniors Need to Have a Happy New Year, 365 Days of the Year, the social activist passionately delivered an address to a sizeable crowd at the John Larmonie Centre.

“The SMSPA has denounced discriminatory Sickness Insurance Packages both in content and premiums charged senior packages FZOG, SZV 60 Plus is now the former SVB package, less than former BZV Package. Yet the premiums are higher.

Home physicians not available after working hours, long waiting at emergency room, long waiting list to see a specialist, sending abroad issues and substandard healthcare at the St. Maarten Medical Centre,” are some of the complaints of the elderly.

Jessurun said that the only way that the people of St. Maarten will be able to have a “very happy, safe and wonderful 2014” as expressed by the Prime Minister, President of Parliament and leader of the United People’s Party is if this year is a year of action.

“If 2014 is a year of action, but action for the poor, the needy and people….so politicians only when you accept what we want then you can get our vote.”

Poverty Among Seniors

Jessurun stated that 12.9 percent of people 60 years and older have no income, while close to 50 percent of those over 60 have only one source of income. That income is the old age pension which stands at an average of 575 guilders or $319.44. Two of every three people that are 60 years and older are living in poverty in St. Maarten, he added. This accounts for 63 percent of the elderly population, Jessurun explained who are living in poverty because of the rising cost of goods and services that is no match for the social allowances.

“APS did not pay the cost of living adjustment to pensioners from government, because government only budgeted 50 percent lump sum last year and zero percent for 2014. Just as active civil servants and teachers, this is an acquired right that government unilaterally decided to violate. The SMSPA is in contact with civil servants unions in the struggle to get our COLA payment respected,” he stated.

SMSPA Wishes

Among the wishes of the association for this year, Jessurun highlighted the fact that seniors were looking forward to their aims in health care and social security as well as their human rights being realized on an equal footing in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Jessurun stated that after two hundred years of Kingdom relations and policies, St. Maarten’s rights to development, an adequate standard of living and equal rights are still being violated.

For 2014, the foundation intends to inform international networks and Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, of the extent of structural abuse existing on St. Maarten.

The association also wants to spearhead the formation of a Consumers Coalition that will have among its objectives, the defense of both residents and tourist’s rights, the promotion of quality products and an increase in the purchasing power of consumers.

Jessurun concluded his address by charging seniors to “Get up, stand up for you right, don’t give up the fight, you have to decide.”

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