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New cabinet takes action: healthcare own risk will not go up to €400

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The four parties in talks on forming a new Dutch government do not want the planned rise in the health insurance own-risk element to go up to €400. Chief negotiator Gerrit Zalm has written to health minister Edith Schippers to say the four parties oppose the increase.

He has taken the unusual step because any change has to be made formal in law by October 1. The size of the own-risk payment – currently €385 – is important for health insurance companies when they determine what premiums to charge patients next year.

Patients have to first spend €385 on healthcare themselves before they can claim on their health insurance for treatment. Caretaker health minister Edith Schippers says the decision not to increase the own risk means that all adults will have to pay an extra €10 a year in premiums.

She had earlier indicated that premiums would go up by an average of €6 a month. The government determines what is covered in the basic healthcare insurance package but insurers are free to set their own fees. (DutchNews)

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Italian mafia suspect arrested in central Amsterdam

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An Italian national wanted in connection with mafia activities was picked up in Amsterdam at the beginning of this month on a European arrest warrant, police said on Thursday.

Police had been tipped off that the 33-year-old was living in Amsterdam. The man was arrested on Waterlooplein, next to the city hall and the market on September 7.

Two police officers from Italy were part of the arrest squad but the actual arrest was made by Dutch officers, the police statement said. Last week the police announced that a special team was being set up to hunt for potential mafia members in the Netherlands.

This arrest was not connected to that plan, broadcaster NOS said. The man is being held in custody pending his deportation to Italy. (DutchNews)

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Four in 10 Dutch nursing homes are making a loss

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – At least 40% of Dutch nursing homes and home nursing organisations are making a loss and overall profitability across the healthcare sector has more than halved, according to accountancy group EY.

EY researchers checked the 2016 annual reports of 469 nursing home and care groups and found 40% are in the red, compared with 25% in 2015. The financial position of many hospitals and psychiatric care groups has also deteriorated over the past year, EY says.

Net profit across the healthcare sector has gone down from 2.2% in 2012 to under 1% last year.’The results are, to put it mildly, shocking,’ EY said in a statement.

‘Such low returns can lead to financial agreements with banks being revised, with higher interest rates, tough controls and potential bankruptcy as a result,’ said EY partner Rob Leensen.

’There is a real risk that care providers will start making cuts and stop investing in innovation.’ The main cause of the financial problems facing nursing homes is wage costs following agreement last year on extra payments for irregular hours.

A reduction in contributions from local councils and health insurance provisions has also had an impact, EY said.

Lower prices

In order to win local authority contracts, nursing home groups are offering the same level of care for a lower price and this is forcing many into serious financial difficulties.

And because the elderly are being encouraged to live at home longer, nursing homes are dealing with the very frail elderly who need considerably more care, EY said.

Together, the care groups made a combined loss of €37.5m last year, EY calculates. However, junior health minister Martin van Rijn told the Volkskrant he did not consider the report to be worrying because most care organisations have sufficient reserves to absorb any losses. (DutchNews)

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Almost 100 tiger mosquitoes caught in Gelderland village; no reason for panic

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Inspectors from the Dutch product safety board have found 98 tiger mosquitoes, including larvae and pupae in and around the Gelderland village of Aalten, local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland said on Tuesday.

Locals were warned two weeks ago to keep an eye out for the Asian insects, which have distinctive black and white stripes. The NWVA drew up a plan to eradicate the Aalten mosquitoes, which carry diseases such as yellow fever and dengue fever in their native habitat.

They were first sighted in the Netherlands in 2005. The NVWA said there was a negligible chance of humans being infected, but is taking action to prevent the insects colonising the Netherlands.

Since the turn of the century the species has succeeded in establishing itself in several southern European countries including France and Italy. The large number of mosquitoes found near Aalten are ‘no reason for panic’ the NVWA said.

The mosquito is thought to have arrived in the Netherlands in imported car tires and bamboo plants. (DutchNews)

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Two men arrested for climbing on roof of Islamic school

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two masked men who climbed onto the roof of an Islamic school in Amsterdam have been arrested. The pair claimed to be protesting against the opening of the secondary school in the Nieuw-West district in the name of a group calling itself Het Identitair Verzet (“Native Resistance”).

They chanted anti-Muslim slogans and unfurled a banner with the slogan: ‘If you sow Islam you will reap sharia.’ AT5 reported that they assaulted and threw stones at school staff members who went up on to the roof to try to talk them down.

The incident ended when police arrived and led the men away in handcuffs. The Council of State ruled during the summer that the Muslim organisation Stichting Islamitisch Onderwijs could open a secondary school in the capital despite opposition from junior education minister Sander Dekker and the city council.

Parliament passed a law in 2015 banning the wearing of face coverings in schools and other public buildings, partly in response to pressure from the anti-Islam PVV party. (DutchNews)

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Unions and employers fail to reach deal on Dutch labour market reforms

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Unions and employers have failed to reach agreement on changes to redundancy law and the pension system, dashing hopes that the new coalition government will have substantial reforms in the bag.

The three big unions and employer’s organisation VNO-NCW had hoped to reach a deal by last Friday but have now decided there is no point in holding further talks at the moment.

The unions had been hoping to use the talks to reach a common position with employers on boosting the use of permanent contracts.

Han Busker, chairman of the biggest trade union federation FNV, told reporters on Monday that had not been possible to reach a deal on making it more attractive for companies to take on permanent staff or to stop potential abuses.

CNV chairman Maurice Limmen said that given the good economic prospects, now had been the time to give people more job security and to stop the shift towards further use of flexible and short-term contracts.

Risks

Hans de Boer, chairman of the VNO-NCW, said he is extremely sorry the talks had failed. ‘Employers do not dare offer staff permanent contracts because of all the risks. We want an end to that situation,’ he said.

The VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie had asked the unions and employers to try to reach a joint position on various labour market reforms. The failure of the talks means it will be more difficult for the next government to reach a deal on reforms which have both union and employer support.

Prime Minister and VVD leader Mark Rutte said that the failure of the talks is ‘extremely disappointing’. (DutchNews)

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Amsterdam mayor sacks head of anti-radicalisation unit for fraud

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan has sacked the head of his anti-radicalisation unit following corruption allegations.

An investigation by the city’s integrity unit showed that the woman, named in the press as Saadia AT was involved in a conflict of interest, according to the city council press release.

The Volkskrant said she had awarded contracts to a man with whom she had a relationship. T not only failed to report the relationship to her superiors, but reportedly also wrote an invoice on behalf of the man which she then approved in her official position, the paper said.

The mayor has also suspended dealings with a number of ‘persons and companies’ involved in the anti-radicalisation programme in Amsterdam. The criminal investigation into possible fraud is still underway.

T, 33, had been regarded as Van der Laan’s ‘right hand’ woman in the city’s efforts to stop youngsters becoming radicalised. She was suspended several weeks ago after the allegations first surfaced. (DutchNews)

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Dutch scientists say there is a maximum lifespan after all

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People are living longer on average but the very oldest have not become any older over the last 30 years, Dutch researchers say.

Statistical research by researchers from Tilburg and Erasmus universities show that although the number of people reaching the age of 95 has tripled, there is no increase in the maximum life span.

The researchers base their conclusion on precise ages at death of 75,000 Dutch people who died in the last 30 years after reaching at least the age of 94. Their Extreme Value Theory shows that a clear ceiling exists for the maximum age to which people could live – for women it is estimated at 115.7 years and for men at 114.1 years.

This maximum age has not increased between1986 until 2015, even though the number of people reaching the age of 95 almost trebled, the researchers say. ‘There is certainly some kind of wall here,’ Professor John Einmahl, one of three scientists involved in the study, told news agency AFP.

People reaching the age of 65 in the Netherlands this year are forecast to reach an average age of 84, if female, and 80 if male. (DutchNews)

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Contaminated egg scandal rumbles on, fipronil found in Romanian eggs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – In total, 144 Dutch poultry farms still remain closed because of the contaminated egg scandal, broadcaster RTL Nieuws said on Thursday.

At the height of the scare, 281 factory egg farms were closed down. The farms have been stopped from selling eggs and chicken meat because their products contain too much of the banned pesticide fipronil to be sold for human consumption.

A spokesman for the European Commission told a sitting of the European parliament’s agriculture committee on Thursday that contaminated eggs have been found in 22 countries within and outside the EU.

Ukraine and Oman have imposed an import ban on eggs from the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium. Meanwhile, it now transpires that the use of fipronil as a chicken de-lousing agent is more widespread than thought.

Romania

In Italy a consignment of eggs from Romania has been found to have 1.2 milligrams of fipronil per kilo, the highest concentration yet found. The legal limit is 0.72 milligrams.

The Dutch contamination originated at a small company called Chickfriend. Its owners are facing prosecution. According to broadcaster NOS, Chickfriend’s Belgian supplier bought the oils used as a delouser from a Romanian firm.

‘It would appear Romania is the source of the contamination,’ Hennie de Haan of the Dutch poultry farmers union told NOS. ‘But it is shocking to discover five weeks later that fipronil is being used in other EU countries.’

The EU’s rapid alert system has also recorded reports of fipronil-contaminated eggs which were produced in Italy, Hungary, Poland and Germany as well as Romania. (DutchNews)

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‘Rotterdam concert hall terror suspect is terrorist hunter’: Volkskrant

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The 22-year-old student arrested on terrorism charges after a security alert in Rotterdam earlier this month was trying to track down terrorists himself, the Volkskrant claimed on Thursday.

The paper, which bases its claims on talks with sources, documents and the contents of online chats, talked to Jimmy F’s lawyer Karianne Bal. ‘My client’s only goal was to unmask terrorists. He has been doing this for years.

I can’t understand why he is being held,’ Bal told the paper. F was remanded in custody for another fourteen days on Wednesday. The alleged terrorist was picked up by an anti-terror unit in the wake of a tip-off from the Spanish Guardia Civil about a possible attack on a concert by the American band Allah-Las in Rotterdam on August 23.

The threat was credible enough for Mayor Achmed Aboutaleb to cancel the event. F, who studies safety and security management, had allegedly posted concrete threats about the Rotterdam concert on messaging service Telegram.

But according to the Volkskrant Jimmy F is a member of the international online group Syria General whose aim is to find terrorists and give information about their whereabouts to police and security services. The group is said to have close ties with Russia, and to support Syria’s president Assad.

Spanish link

The Volkskrant had access to chats in which F. contacted a man called Ayoub who claimed to be in Spain. The man said he was planning an attack ‘bigger than the one in Paris’.

As F. tried his best to find out more about him he tried to win his confidence by saying he was planning an attack himself as well, a version of events which has been confirmed by friend of F.’s who are also members of Syria general, the paper writes.

According to the Volkskrant it is ‘probable’ that the Spanish police, in the wake of the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, were extra vigilant and informed the Dutch authorities of the message.

The paper talked to two anonymous sources who claim that Jimmy F. was in ‘frequent communication’ with Dutch secret service AIVD who they say knew about F.’s infiltration attempts. The AIVD will confirm nor deny the claim, the paper writes. (DutchNews)

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