Community cautioned that hospital’s expansion is not a total healthcare fix

POSTED: 01/12/12 3:41 PM

St. Maarten – Two cautions were sounded during a discussion between parliamentarians attending the Inter-parliamentary consultation on the Kingdom and a delegation from the St. Maarten Medical Center. The first caution was from the hospital’s general director Dr. George Scot and the second was from VVD MP Andre Bosman during a session at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel after MPs had toured the hospital.

In his presentation on the hospital’s future Scot candidly said, “There are a lot of things we cannot do even if we expand. For example it does make sense to have a specialist in neurosurgery.”

On his turn at the end of the discussion Bosman said, “It is important that people don’t think that healthcare becomes better from an expanded hospital. The organization of healthcare in general is what eventually leads to improvements.”

Expansion needed
In his presentation Dr. Scot stressed that the hospital must expand for several reasons. One such reason is that the current facility was built to handle a population of 24, 000 and the Dutch side of St. Maarten now has close to 56, 000 residents. There is also a need to expand so the 27 permanent specialists and 7 rotating specialists the hospital needs can have space to work.

“We don’t have any space right now. We have reached our operational limits. We are stuck with the Emergency Room and in order for it to get bigger we must change the layout,” Scot said.

At the moment the hospital has 16.5 permanent specialists and 2 rotating specialists. The half is a doctor who works part time. The figure will go to 17.5 when the newest surgeon arrives, providing the current two surgeons a break from on call duty.

The hospital’s expansion is projected to cost 30 million guilders. The hospital has been trying to raise funds through a loan arrangement, but said it cannot go further in that process without a guarantee from the Government of St. Maarten that it will have exclusive rights to offer particular services.

“We need a medically integrated hospital with all specialists in one year,” Scot said with St. Maarten MP Roy Marlin asked if he could use the hospital’s cash flow to finance the expansion in small phases over time.

Other needs
Scot also told the delegations that next of the expansion he really wants to hire more specialists and specialized staff. He also wants the Government of St. Maarten to implement a new tariff system.

“We don’t need higher tariffs. What we need is a new tariff system that allows us to cover our costs. We cannot work with the current system for the expansion and we cannot work with it for the next 10 years,” Scot said.

Scot also explained that while there is cooperation between the various hospitals on the different islands there is a need for the specialists to be united so that there is cooperation on the work floor. At the moment the hospital directors meet regularly for discussions but Scot candidly said they can’t do much more than talk, partially because the hospitals have different structures. For example some are public and others – the St. Maarten Medical Center included – are private.

“Hospitals must have similar structures and be guided by similar laws and guidelines. There should be a hospital committee to discuss problems and how to work together. Maybe we need a representative body for specialists as well so they can deepen cooperation,” Scot said.

The hospital director has also said that cooperation has not deepened with Saba and St. Eustatius because of choices those islands made.

“For example we have our own pharmacy and we offered to Saba and St. Eustatius for them to join with us and purchase medicine so we could get better bulk prices. They chose to go a different route. We also need to plan for visits to Saba and St. Eustatius more efficiently,” Scot said.

In a twist of irony while MPs from the four countries toured the hospital United People’s Party MP Dr. Ruth Douglas was helping to tend to her mother who had fallen into a coma and National Alliance leader William Marlin was monitoring the treatment of his wife, who’s also been admitted to hospital.

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