Opinion: Slippery slope

POSTED: 08/30/12 1:03 PM

The Public Health Ministry is on a slippery slope with the desire it expressed to have a member on the supervisory board of the St. Maarten Medical Center so that it is able to oversee and participate in decision making.
The rules under which the supervisory board operates must be clear to Public Health Minister de Weever. Director George Scot explains them in an another article here on our website and there is no room for misunderstanding: the supervisory board nominates candidates and the minister appoints them.
The nominations are binding.
But apparently, the ministry wants to establish political influence at the hospital. One may well wonder whether the ministry is taking a leaf out of Curacao’s handbook for harassing government-owned companies. And mind you, the hospital is not even a government-owned company. It is, as the article on page 5 explains, a private foundation. So why would the government want to get a finger in the pie? What makes it think that politicians, or candidates who are willing to do their bidding, are able to run a hospital, or that they will do this better than healthcare professionals?
We put our ear to the ground and all we kept hearing was the about the drive by private parties to make St. Maarten a hub for medical tourism.
Such a venture, we hear, does not benefit from a well functioning hospital in its front yard. This explains why there is suddenly such a fuss about the financing of the expansion plans for the hospital. This expansion hangs together with the necessary improvements in service the hospital envisions. No expansion means no improvements, and no improvements means that interested parties will find ways to legitimate the arrival of a foreign center for medical tourism.
The effects of such a center on the local healthcare market are rather predictable, and they spell bad news for citizens who depend on their local hospital.
We think that such a foreign group would establish a medical facility based on empty promises. We have heard them already during a presentation: the medical tourism artists will generously offer to treat some local patients for free. They might even assist the medical center – though with what exactly never became clear.
What will really happen – we think – is that such a facility will adopt agreeable working hours – say five days a week from nine to five. It will attract well paying customers for treatments that cost a big fortune in for instance the United States and that will be offered here for a small fortune.
Of course such a center will then be able to pay salaries our own medical center is unable to compete with. So the best staff members will quickly be pulled out of the pack and drawn into the medical tourism adventure, leaving the local hospital scrambling for staff.
And the locals that such a center would want to treat for free? They will be, as anybody with half a brain could guess, cherry-picked.
We hear now that our public health minister has hastily declared that he has no personal interest in establishing medical tourism in St. Maarten. We’ll take that statement at face value, but we are pretty sure that there are private interests scrambling for bringing medical tourism to our island. It will be interesting to see who will become the ultimate beneficiaries of such a venture.

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