Published On: Tue, Apr 24th, 2018

Humanitas-chairman apologizes for insulting Antilleans


THE HAGUE – The chairman of the Humanitas Foundation, Gijsbert van Herk, apologized last week in an email for his statements about Antillean employees of the Rotterdam-based nursing home De Leeuwenhoek, Natasja Gibbs reports on Caribisch Netwerk.

Things went wrong when Van Herk made an attempt to repair the nursing home’s negative image last week in an interview with Trouw by emphasizing the multicultural character of the institution. “If we look at De Leeuwenhoek from the point of view of a Dutch nurse from Maastricht you conclude that the things that are happening there are not allowed. But if you look at it from an Antillean perspective, you’d say: what’s the problem?” Van Herk told the newspaper.

De Leeuwenhoek was on the receiving end of negative publicity after reports about verbal and physical ill-treatment of dementing seniors by staff members and fellow-residents. Humanitas owns the nursing home.

Instead of repairing De Leeuwenhoek’s negative image, Van Herk’s statement triggered the anger of Antilleans living in the Netherlands.

John Leerdam, chairman of the lobby organization OCaN received during the past couple of days dozens of phone calls from angry Antilleans; among them were staff members of De Leeuwenhoek.

“At a certain moment I had a crying woman on the phone who has been working there for twenty years,” Leerdam says. “Imagine, with such a statement you label a whole group of people as incompetent and callous human beings. This lady who has been working herself to the bone for twenty years, is devastated.”

Van Herk wrote in an email to OCaN that he never intended to label a certain group of staff members as unqualified for healthcare or for working at Humanitas. “That is nonsense; it would be hurtful and incorrect. Those who know me know that I am actually fighting against this. With this, I not only embrace our Humanitas-philosophy but I am also open to clear and transparent communication with all colleagues and to openness in healthcare and well-being in the Netherlands.”

OCaN, an organization that lobbies on behalf of Antilleans who live in the Netherlands, says that it appreciates Van Herk’s email. “But apologies via email are insufficient. We demand a public apology from Van Herk on behalf of all hardworking Antilleans in healthcare. We are living in a time where we no longer accept that such things are being said. Furthermore he made his wrong statements in public, so now he will have to at least apologize in public too.”

OCaN also wants to talk with Van Herk, together with several Antillean staff members of De Leeuwenhoek in an attempt to prevent these situations in the future.

Photo caption: Humanitas chairman Gijsbert van Herk. Photo: Humanitas