Opinion: Getting nowhere

POSTED: 09/10/12 12:34 AM

The St. Maarten Medical Center has lashed out at Public health Minister Cornelius de Weever with a letter that leaves no room for misunderstanding. And let’s face it: the minister had it coming.
The government has embarrassed itself now on two fronts with similar misguided initiatives. Economic Affairs Minister Romeo Pantophlet
Has so far a 60 percent success rate with his bold move to chase members of the Harbor Holding supervisory board out of their seats. Two board members are not buying the bullying tactics and they stay put.
At the medical center, Minister De Weever is getting nowhere, because the whole board refuses to move – and for all the right reasons.
The attempts by these two ministers to meddle in the affairs of two institutions in a way that basically breaks all the rules is unfortunate at best and certainly misguided.
Pantophlet has not been able to come up with one sensible – let alone valid – reason for wanting the Harbor Holding board members to step aside. Younger people? A new vision? These are empty statements and the board members that are hanging on to their seats have made it painfully clear that they have no content whatsoever.
The real reason Pantophlet wants to replace the board members is of course that he wants to place his puppets there so that the harbor will do his bidding. As Karel Frielink pointed out on these pages last week, that’s a bad idea. The minister wants to use the harbor group of companies as his personal political toy and that does not promise a lot of good for the business end of things.
And the ruckus at the medical center? It’s hard to say at this point in time what this is all about: the unfortunate demise of the sister of a member of parliament? The desire to frustrate the medical center’s expansion plans?
George Scot’s argument that all this has to do with the desire to welcome a center for medical tourism has anything to do with it lost a lot of its merit after statements the initiator of the American Clinic, Samuel Hess is making in our front page article today.
Hess does not want to compete, he wants to complement – meaning that he intends to bring specialism to the island that are currently not available. There is no intention to pilfer the staff of the medical center, though Hess was honest enough to say that he would of course not turn people away who would apply for a job at his facility.
So yeah, the risk that some staff members will switch from the Sint Maarten Medical Center to the American Clinic a couple of years down the road is of course real. But that does not mean that these two facilities are unable to co-exist and to work together in a way that is beneficial for the citizens and the visitors of St. Maarten.
The way minister De Weever went about his business with the medical center is of a totally different order. It is a form of power politics, but the kamikaze action aimed at the medical center’s board members is destined for failure.
We have looked at the rules that are in place for the hospital and we arrive with its attorneys at the conclusion that there is no legal basis for the actions the minister has in mind. A good Dutch expression for this situation is: hij heeft geen poot om op te staan. (literally: he doesn’t have a leg to stand on).
It is about time for these two cabinet members to look for more constructive ways to address problems they perceive. The current course of action is totally pointless and will only lead to more insecurity among hospital staff and patients.
And keep in mind: the hospital is not a government-owned company. It is a private foundation, and the government has no right to appoint anybody to its supervisory board. The minister may choose from two candidates that are nominated by the board. And as Director George Scot pointed out in this news-paper last week: the public health minister has never used the option to appoint a nominee. So what is that all about?

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