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Soualiga Newsday Features (1495)

Organ and tissue donations reached record level in 2018

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A record number of people donated organs after their death in 2018, according to figures from the Dutch Transplant Foundation (NTS). 

In total 273 people who died donated organs, out of 336 who were registered donors. The number of transplants was 815, a 15% increase on the previous year. There was a slight fall in the number of living donors, from 561 to 522. 

Living organ donations nearly always involve kidneys. The NTS said a change in the rules on tissue donation to allow tissue to be taken from people who had suffered blood poisoning was partly responsible for the increase. 

Last year 2398 people donated tissue such as skin and bones, which is used in almost half of all transplants. Bernadette Haasse, director of the NTS, said: ‘Although the growth in organ and tissue transplants is a very hopeful development, we are still not there. 

There are still people dying because they don’t receive an organ in time.’  (DutchNews)

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Concern as medicine shortages continue to rise

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Medicine shortages reached a new record level in 2018, continuing a growing trend that dates back to the start of the decade. The pharmacists’ umbrella body KNMP said 769 medicines were unavailable at some stage during the year, including 128 treatments that were taken out of circulation altogether. 

The figure has been rising steadily since 2010, when fewer than 200 medicines were affected. The organisation blamed the shortages on measures by the government to keep prices low and a preferential pricing system introduced by insurers. 

But health insurers said the preferential model, under which pharmaceutical companies submit tenders to produce out-of-patent medicines, was not the main cause. ‘In the vast majority of cases the shortages concern medicines outside the preferential system,’ said a spokesman for umbrella body Zorgverzekeraars Nederland. 

Under the tendering process insurers will only cover the cost of the cheapest version on offer. One of the most high-profile stock shortages in 2018 concerned the most commonly prescribed contraceptive pills, including Mycrogynon 30, which is taken by around 1.2 million women. 

A large batch of the pills was destroyed in September because it failed safety tests, though the competitive tendering process was also cited as a factor. Patients who take the drug Levodopa for Parkinson’s disease were affected by production problems at the manufacturer. 

Although alternative drugs are available, the switch was likely to have a negative impact on the patient’s functioning. Other categories of medicine where shortages were experienced included drugs to control epilepsy, which were out of stock on 19 occasions, as well as treatments for eye conditions and antibiotics, according to the KNMP. 

A spokesman for public health minister Bruno Bruins told NOS that the government recommended health insurers keep a three to four months’ supply of all drugs in stock. He claimed that this would prevent around 60% of shortages.(DutchNews)

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The Hague’s Bronovo hospital set to close ‘in a couple of years’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Hague’s Bronovo hospital, popular with both royals and the international community, is likely to close within a couple of years, local newspaper Den Haag Centraal reports. 

A confidential report on the Haagland Medisch Centrum, which runs three hospitals including the Bronovo, suggests that the closing of the hospital is unavoidable in order to shore up the group’s finances, the paper states. 

HMC has declined to comment on the speculation, but Den Haag Centraal says the Bronovo will shut at the end of 2021 or in 2022. ‘We are looking at the options to ensure affordable care in the future,’ the HMC said in a statement. 

‘This week talks are being held between patients, staff, insurance companies, local councils and the ministry,’ the organisation said. The results of the consultation process will be announced on January 24.  (DutchNews)

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Limited network capacity casts shadow on solar energy growth

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch might have been some of the world’s best green energy farmers, with their ubiquitous windmills. But they are having more problems rolling out solar energy cultivation, according to media reports on Friday. 

The Volkskrant claims that network managers Enexis and TenneT cannot agree to take energy from any more farmers, companies or corporations in parts of Groningen and Drenthe who want to install panels – because there apparently isn’t enough capacity in the system. 

New solar farms in certain areas, where solar farming provides more than enough energy, will also not be connected to the national network. According to the Volkskrant, supply of the panels in 2017 and 2018 has somewhat outstripped the demand. 

‘The capacity of the energy network is a bottleneck for transition to green energy,’ Siward Zomer, director of eco-friendly energy organisation ODE Decentraal reportedly told the paper. 

Netbeheer Nederland association said that the problem is most acute in parts of Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel. Jeroen Brouwers, spokesman for TenneT, reportedly told the Telegraaf that the problem was ‘the result of the current subsidy policy’, adding that the panels ‘are mostly possible, but just not all in the same space’. 

Expanding the network capacity to increase the capacity for solar energy – and help fulfil the Netherland’s obligations to combat climate change – is expected to take years and cost millions.(DutchNews)

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Dutch police can access 200,000 private security cameras, campaign for more

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 40,000 private security cameras have been added to the police surveillance network since September 2017, taking the total nationwide to 200,000, the police confirmed on Thursday. 

The cameras, owned by private individuals and companies, are registered with the police Camera in Beeld network and can be accessed by officials if there has been an incident. 

On Thursday, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus will also launch a campaign to get more of the estimated 1.5 million security cameras in the Netherlands included in the data bank, which was set up in 2014. 

The campaign consists of a drive to improve the quality of surveillance cameras by providing expert advice online. Cameras which are put through the quick scan will automatically be added to the system. 

Private security cameras were instrumental in tracing the suspect in a vicious rape case in Rotterdam earlier this year, police said in a statement. 

‘Images can be incredibly important in an investigation and the help provided by private citizens has real added value,’ a police spokesman said.(DutchNews)

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Report slams Amsterdam’s council backed brothel, says human trafficking ignored

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An Amsterdam council experiment to help sex workers run their own brothel in the city’s notorious red light district should never have been started, according to an independent report commissioned by city officials. 

Lawyer Corinne Dettmeijer, the former national rapporteur on human trafficking, says in her report that running a safe and financially secure brothel would appear to have been too ambitious. 

‘Let me state first of all, I do not think the council should ever have started with this,’ Dettmeijer said in the report’s conclusions. The report states that most of the women working in the My Red-Light brothel are Bulgarian nationals and that there have been four cases of suspected human trafficking, which were not properly reported. 

The company can be fined €25,000 for failing to report suspicions of human trafficking. 

Company 

In addition, the idea that former sex workers can set up and run a successful company is based on thin air, Dettmeijer says. The three former prostitutes running the operation were barely able to keep afloat and were having to cope with far too high expectations from both city hall and others who had invested in the project. 

The decline in the number of men using the brothel is also having an impact and the Parool reported on Tuesday that the women using the facility want to move to another location where there are less tourists and they can also solicit clients via internet. This is banned in the council-backed brothel. 

Council property 

The brothel, which has 14 windows, is housed in four buildings bought by the city some 10 years ago from red light district lynch pin Charles Geerts. Amsterdam’s former mayor Eberhard van der Laan was one of the main drivers of the project. 

‘The fact that sex workers are going to run a prostitution company themselves is an important next step in the normalisation of sex work,’ the mayor said ahead of the brothel opening 18 months ago. The three parties which now run Amsterdam city council have drawn up a string of proposals for dealing with the city’s red-light district and moving prostitution to a new location is one of the options. 

New location 

City mayor Femke Halsema says there are ‘no taboos at all’ when it comes to making the area, the oldest part of the city, more habitable. The area has been home to prostitution for centuries, because of its proximity to the docks She is due to publish her vision on prostitution early this year. 

Despite her misgivings, Dettmeijer recommends that the project be allowed to continue but with much tighter supervision and says the council should become much more involved. 

Measures must also be made to improve the safety of the women working in the brothel and any suspicion of human trafficking should be reported immediately, she said. ‘There can be no debate about this point,’ Dettmeijer said.(DutchNews)

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Teachers plan nationwide strike on March 15 over pay and pressure of work

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two of the biggest Dutch teaching unions have called for an all-out strike on March 15 which will cover primary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities. 

‘The pressure of work is too high across the board and teacher shortages are mounting at primary and secondary schools,’ Liesbeth Verheggen, chairman of the Aob teaching union, told the Volkskrant on Wednesday. 

The Aob is the biggest Dutch teaching union with some 84,000 members. It is joined in the strike campaign by the FNV trade union federation’s education arm and the strike is supported by campaign groups PO in Actie ad WO in Actie, the Volkskrant said. 

The CNV-affiliated teaching union is not taking part. ‘This is not the right time,’ chairman Loek Schueler told the paper. The primary school sector is currently involved in pay talks, Schueler said. 

The education ministry declined to comment on the strike plans but said that the cabinet is boosting spending on schools and colleges by €831m this year – more than any other sector. 

The campaigners say the government should increase spending on education by €3bn this year.(DutchNews)

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Dutch work most in evenings and Sundays in Europe: research

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Almost three in 10 Dutch people sometimes work evenings and one in five work on Sundays, particularly in e-commerce, researchers at Belgium’s Leuven university have found. 

The number of evening workers is much higher than the European average which is 13.7%, the researchers said. And the number of Dutch people working on a Sunday went up by 20% compared to 2006. 

Flexible shop opening hours and same day delivery of packages contribute to the flexible Dutch economy, the researchers say. ‘It’s partly to do with the rules and regulations. 

Belgium has very strict rules regarding working in the evenings and on Sundays, and in some instances, it is simply not allowed. In the Netherlands the law is more flexible, and e-commerce is taking advantage of this,’ Leuven researcher Sarah Vansteenkist told het Parool. 

The flexible working hours result mainly in low-skilled jobs in the service sector and distribution centres of webshops like Bol.com or Wehkamp, the paper said. According to labour market expert, Ton Wilthagen flexible laws regarding working hours has enabled economic growth. 

‘But that doesn’t mean there are no rules at all. Unlimited night shifts are not allowed here either,’ he said. More women than men work weekends, the research showed. ‘Women work in care more often, which involves working at the weekend, and that will only increase with an ageing population. 

Teachers, who are predominantly women, prepare for the week at the weekend as well,’ the paper quotes Vansteenkist as saying. Wilthagen said that contrary to night work, working at the weekend and in the evening is not bad for health. 

‘If you are happy to work those hours, and most people who do are, then there is no problem,’ he said.(DutchNews)

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‘Bring children back from Syria,’ Dutch children’s ombudsman urges

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch children’s ombudsman has renewed her call to the government to bring back children who are stuck in camps in Syria because their parents supported IS. 

Margrite Kalverboer has urged justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus to bring back dozens of Dutch children living in refugee camps, saying the Netherlands has a duty of care towards them. 

‘The development of these children has been seriously threatened by their parents’ choices,’ she said. ‘If parents cannot protect their children, the government should step in.’ 

The problem is particularly acute now winter is moving in and the situation in Syria has worsened, Kalverboer says in a letter to the government, adding that ‘the Netherlands should end its reticence.’ The ombudsman referred to the recent court case in Belgium in which the Belgian authorities were ordered to bring several children back. 

‘I would ask you to provide clarity about which countries are bringing their citizens back or intend to do so, and how they plan to do this,’ the letter stated. Currently, families who wish to come back to the Netherlands have to report to a Dutch diplomatic mission in either Iraq or Turkey. 

However, women and children are not allowed to leave the camps, so it is impossible for them to do so. Officials say around 145 children with Dutch nationality or who can make a claim on Dutch nationality are living in the conflict zone. 

Grapperhaus has denied the Netherlands has a duty of care towards the children and has told MPs that it is legally complex to separate parents from their children.(DutchNews)

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More people switch health insurer in year end transfer window

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 1.1 million people have switched health insurance company during the most recent transfer window, according to preliminary figures from health insurer association ZN. 

That would mean 6.6% of all policy holders moved to a new provider this year, up from 6.2% in 2017, ZN said. That percentage can still change because not all applications have yet been processed. 

People had until January 1 to cancel their old insurance policy but until February 1 to choose a new health insurance company. ‘People really do have something to choose from and we can see that they are now doing this,’ ZN chairman André Rouvoet said.(DutchNews)

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