Opinion: Not healthy

POSTED: 11/23/12 12:47 PM

We obviously do not have the whole picture (not yet, at least), but we are beginning to understand why Public health Minister de Weever provided the media on Wednesday with just the first page of his Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the American Clinic.
The reason as we see it is that this memorandum contains information the minister prefers to keep away from his citizens.
From the first draft of this document, of which this newspaper obtained a complete copy, it appears that the American Clinic wants a couple of things out of the deal.
Firstly, the Americans want to be appointed as the sole medical provider for the St. Maarten Medical Center. We’ve made an attempt to understand what this implies but we did not get further than an educated guess. We figure that this could mean that the American Clinic wants to get a monopoly on providing medical equipment to the hospital. That is a potentially sweet deal, because specialist medical equipment is expensive.
In minutes this newspaper obtained of a meeting between the parties involved in the project at the Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda, the American Clinic states that it would provide equipment needed for the upgrade of the SMMC. That equipment would become the property of the hospital under a lease or financing agreement.
If the American Clinic becomes the sole provider, the local hospital will no longer be free to look for the best deal on the market. That will not drive healthcare cost down; it will drive those costs up.
The American clinic is also after a tax holiday, or so it appears from the draft Memorandum of Understanding dated May 18, 2011, E-zone approval and exemption from import duties on medical equipment. That last point was brought up just in case St. Maarten would levy such duties in the future.
What is more worrisome than all these conditions is the requirement of a non disclosure agreement. While this may not be an uncommon business practice (we think RGM demanded the same stipulation for the development of the new government administration building) it is at the same time highly unsatisfactory because the medical tourism project will touch the core of our healthcare system.
That alone ought to be reason enough to make complete transparency a requirement, instead of going along with a non-disclosure agreement. This will simply become the source of endless speculation and political warfare. To stay with the topic: that’s not healthy.
Already now, by just handing out the first page of a Memorandum of Understanding, Minister De Weever creates the impression that there is something people are not allowed to know. That’s a pity, even though we suspect that, given enough time, the truth will come out.

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