Minister De Weever sticks to expansion plan for hospital

POSTED: 07/17/14 4:49 PM

St. Maarten – “Absolutely.” That was Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever’s response to a question from this newspaper whether the government is looking for the expansion and upgrading of the current medical center, rather than opting for the construction of a new hospital as the united People’s party promotes on election posters.

“We have been working of this for the past three to four years,” the minister said. “Mr. Heyliger is quite aware of the progress with the St. Maarten Medical Center.”

Three years ago, De Weever called a meeting with the former SMMC-director Dr. George Scott, together with the former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto, UP-leader Theo Heyliger and central Bank president Dr. Emsley Tromp. Scott could not make it to that meeting. “I arranged for the central Bank to work together with Dr. Scott on the bond for the SMMC, but at the time the SMMC chose to go with Blue Liaison to float the bond. There was a promise about the financing from Mr. Heyliger from 10-10-10 about the financing but I haven’t heard anything about that since then.”

De Weever said that, “knowing what transpired with the SMMC and the resignation of its former director,” the issues with the health inspectorate had to be addressed. The minister illustrated with a recent example what the real problems are with the hospital. “I was just informed two weeks ago that a young man went to the emergency room with appendicitis. He walked in, was seen at the triage, and then had to walk all the way to the front to register and to make a payment, while he was not feeling well. I don’t think that that is quality care. I believe that these are the issues that need to be addressed. If you can’t run the current facility well, building one or building many is not going to be the solution. We have to tackle the issues at hand.”

The minister repeated earlier statements that quality-indicators must be put in place and that the public health department and SZV are currently working on them.

“As a government we have to set priorities,” the minister continued. “If we don’t, we will always be in this quagmire. A hospital comes first, always. I wrote this in my budget plan since 2011; it included 1.2 million guilders for the hospital for a period of five years. We have a state of the art airport, and a state of the art harbor, but we do not have a state of the art hospital. That is what St. Maarten needs. I am still convinced this will happen, but it must happen under the right conditions.”

Minister de Weever called for an end to “the politics of evasion, corruption and suspicion. If we are going to work for St. Maarten we must do so with transparency and honesty.”

The minister said that he learned from a conversation with someone at the Vromi-department that the area where the hospital is located is known as flood-zone #3. “The infrastructure there is very narrow when it comes to drainage. In the initial discussions, the SMMC said that it could not go higher than two floors. We have to look at this comprehensively before we decided where we are going to spend the next dollar.”

De Weever said that for him, the hospital discussion is not about the elections. “When you are on top of Cole Bay Hill and you look through the flapping green flags you see Gebe and you are reminded of the high price of electricity. You look down and you see the infrastructure of all the shacks in that area. On the other side, you see the development of Indigo Bay, but who can afford to live there? Look at the price of land.”

The minister furthermore referred to returning students and how the country does not want a brain drain. “But those graduates are not able to afford a piece of land. I want us to start thinking about whom we are preparing this country for.”

Reflecting on the time it takes to arrive at a decision about the hospital, De Weever said: “We have had a commissioner for eight years and it did not happen. Then we had another commissioner for four years and it did not happen. Then we had a minister for three months and it did not happen.”

The commissioners De Weever was referring to are Franklyn Meyers (1999-2003, 2003-2007) and Maria Buncamper-Molanus (commissioner from 2007-2010, minister from 10-10-10 until her forced departure on 23-12-2010).

“The work we have been doing structurally will pay off,” the minister said. “People will always remember who was there before and who was responsible for what.”



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