Director Scot dismisses claims that doctors were unlicensed – Hospital brought in experienced specialists from the Netherlands

POSTED: 08/29/12 2:06 PM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – We are in contact with the Health Inspectorate almost every day. Do you really think that we could let people work here that are not licensed or that are no doctors? We are constantly busy improving the quality of healthcare. And we do not benefit from bringing in doctors from abroad for the sake of bringing in doctors.”

Dr. George Scot, director of the St. Maarten Medical Center, told this newspaper yesterday that he does not feel the need to react to everything that is being published about his hospital these days, but there are limits. Due to what seems to be a witch hunt orchestrated by faceless forces that use a local internet gossip web site to do their dirty work, the hospital is experiencing massive unrest among staff and patients alike.
The latest gossip concerns a claim that two Dutch specialists who were involved in the operation on Ruth Olivacce – who passed away from complications from an invasive procedure that was performed to have a port reopened for continuity of the necessary haemodialysis treatments – were not licensed. The truth is that the medical center hired a very experienced intervention-radiologist who works for the Medical Center of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the Sint Catharina Hospital in Tilburg and an experienced vascular surgeon who works for the Medical Center of the Free University in Amsterdam.

Haemodialysis is a method that is used to achieve the extracorporeal removal of waste products from the blood when the kidneys are in a state of renal failure. In haemodialysis, three primary methods are used to gain access to the blood: an intravenous catheter, an arteriovenous fistula (AV) or a synthetic graft. The type of access is influenced by factors such as the expected time course of a patient’s renal failure and the condition of his or her vasculature. Patients may have multiple access, usually because an Av fistula or graft is maturing and a catheter is still being used. The creation of all these three major types of vascular accesses requires special surgery.
Flying in specialists from Curacao is expensive because they are only available during the weekend. Therefore the medical center found specialists in the Netherlands who are able to work on weekdays.
“We brought in a vascular surgeon and an intervention radiologist. These people are very experienced specialist,” Scot says. “They came here specifically to treat dialysis-patients. We had eight patients planned and that number eventual grew to fifteen.”
The alternative for this approach is flying patients out to specialized centers in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Martinique or Miami. Curacao is not an option because of the lack of dialysis space. This causes a lot of inconveniences for the patients and their family members. Also the costs for the insurance company will be tremendous because most patients need specialized air evacuations. That is why we organize this here.”
With one of the fifteen dialysis-patients the radiologist encountered complications. Initially the vascular surgeon was able to fix the problem but when the complication persisted, the patient passed away. “The SMMC regrets the occurrence and wishes the family and loved ones of the patient much strength in dealing with their loss,” Dr. Scot said.

The medical center is confronted with a huge confidentiality problem, because after the patient has passed away her medical information appeared almost immediately on the local internet gossip web site.
“That information can only come from inside the hospital,” Dr. Scot said. “We work with paper files and everybody who needs them for the job is able to look at them. Only with an electronic file system is it possible to check who accessed them. We have wondered ourselves: how is it possible that this is on the streets. We uphold patient confidentiality high and do not condone this. Every employee signs a confidentiality agreement.”
Dr. Scot says that the smear campaign against the hospital does not come at an unexpected moment. The medical center is in the final stages of organizing the financing for its expansion plans. There is a $10 million commitment from the pension funds that stands firm today. “They do not believe a word of all that nonsense,” Scot says.
“We have commitments for 22million guilders out of the 30 million we need. But one candidate for the remaining 8 million set up conditions that we cannot meet without changing our statutes. Possible new candidates for the remaining 8 million can throw in the towel after the negative publicity started. “If we do not get the financing, than it is impossible for us to realize the expansion. Then the main condition to improve our services will not be there,” Scot says.

The rumors about the report by the health inspectorate are also unfounded,” Scot says. “There is nothing in that draft report that says that the hospital has to close or that certain things absolutely have to happen now. There are a lot of recommendations for improvement, and we are in agreement with a lot of them. That is also the reason why we want a new ER, a new operating theatre and a new Intensive Care department. We will respond to this draft to the Inspectorate accordingly, so we can work together in improving the hospital care as soon as possible.”
The hospital director says that those who are now railing against the hospital “do so for other reasons.”
Those reasons have to be sought in personal objectives like plans for medical tourism projects. “The unrest all this is causing is enormous,” Scot says. “Among patients, among their family members, among the staff, it is terrible,. Everybody is suffering from it. The healthcare in St. Maarten does not benefit from all this. And the negative influence on tourism will follow shortly.”

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