Lenny Priest wants clarity about St. Maarten Medical Center

POSTED: 08/12/14 11:19 PM

St. Maarten – Lenny Priest, leader of the One St. Maarten People Party (OSPP), has asked clarification from Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever about the possible construction of a new hospital. In a letter dated August 6 (last week Wednesday), Priest notes that four years ago there was talk of an expansion of the existing St. Maarten Medical Center at a cost of 25 million guilders, a project that would have been executed by construction company Liccom.

Priest asks the minister whether indeed a new hospital will be built and if so, where it will be located. He also wants to know if the SMMC or the government has acquired land for the project.

“Based on decisions made by your government the price of land has skyrocketed to $495 per square meter. According to our estimates, a hospital would require at least 4,000 square meter to accommodate future expansion parking and the beautification of the surrounding area. The cost of the land alone would be $2 million.”

Priest furthermore wants to know how the government is going to finance the plan and whether the existing SMMC will be demolished. “How will the patients be attended to during the construction period?” he asks.

Priest points out that the recent construction of new hospitals in the Cayman Islands and Tortola had price tags between $80 and $120 million. “This cost does not include machinery and equipment or the training of personnel.”

Priest continues his letter by stating that he has heard there are plans to continue with the expansion of the SMMC at a cost of 50 million guilders – double the price of the projected expansion four years ago.

He concludes his letter with the statement: “The OSPP support the expansion of the St. Maarten Medical Center by adding a new wing but would want to evaluate the 25 million guilders increase.”

Minister de Weever has consistently stated in answer to questions from this newspaper that the government is talking with the SMMC about expansion, not about the construction of a new hospital.

However, UP-leader Theo Heyliger has a different plan in the making, he announced on June. This includes the construction of a new hospital to the left of the existing building (closer to the One Tete Lokay roundabout). In this plan, the government would construct the building and then lease it to the medical center for $1 per year.

Once the new building is operational – no pun intended – the 25-year old medical center would be demolished and the land would become available for, for instance, the construction of a building for social insurance agency SZV that is currently leasing office space. SZV would pay the SMMC for the use of the land. This would give the hospital much needed revenue. Currently, the hospital is reportedly facing a $6 million operational deficit.

The new hospital – in Heyliger’s view – would also include the medical tourism project American orthopedic surgeon Samuel Hess has been pushing for some years now. Hess is reportedly on board with the integration of his plans in the new hospital Heyliger envisions. This means that his dealings with Al Wathey – who owns the land next to the Royal Palm Beach Resort in Simpson Bay where the American Clinic was to be built – have come to an end.

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