Opinion: St. Maarten Political power game (New hospital or expansion) and political interference

POSTED: 07/1/14 1:31 AM

The St. Maarten Medical Center has gone through turbulent times under its departed director George Scott, but the hospital seems to be rapidly heading for more controversy.

The United People’s party set off the latest developments when it announced, out of the blue, its commitment to the construction of a complete new hospital in the weekend of June 22.

All this happened while the government was busy with pension fund APS and social insurance agency SZV to put together a financing package for the hospital’s upgrade and expansion.

That effort is still underway but apparently, the hospital board now has second thoughts about the whole idea.

That board currently consists of Chairman Robert –Jan James, Vice-chairman Luz Marie Tuitt, Edward Benjamin and Ahmed Bell. Why the board refused to meet with the Council of Ministers, as Prime Minister Wescot-Williams states in a press release she issued yesterday, is unclear.

On the SMMC website, there is no talk about a new hospital, as proposed by UP-leader Theo Heyliger. On the contrary, the site shows an artist’s impression of the current building with a green expansion to the left of the main entrance.

In the accompanying text, the hospital notes that its current building was constructed in 1991 to serve a population of 24,000. The SMMC estimates the current population to be more than double, around 54,000 and that leads of course to the conclusion that the hospital is too small.

“SMMC management formulated a strategic plan to upgrade, renovate and expand the hospital services based on the outcome of various healthcare and other social studies that determined how healthy St. Maarten is and what the care provision should be,” the text on the site reads.

Again, that does not sound like lust for a complete new hospital, but maybe the text is out of date – who knows?

The site furthermore specifies what the expansion plan includes. “It was determined that the SMMC required a 5 phased expansion approach to improve around the clock 24/7 critical and acute care for its population as required by the law. The proposed expansion will include 25 extra beds (increase of 3 to 6 intensive care unit and 22 medium care units) and will increase the total bed count from 76 to 101 in-patient beds. The hospital’s physical infrastructure will be increased with 2,230 m² to 8,939 m².”

There. One would think that it is clear where the hospital is going, but the press release from Wescot-Williams paints a different picture. It speaks of political interference – a clear reference to the announcement for a new hospital by MP Heyliger – but also about apparent interference by her own minister, Cornelius de Weever.

It is obvious that something needs to be done – yet the players that have to make it happen are now seemingly involved in another Mexican standoff whereby nothing moves, nothing happens and parties are only busy throwing each other under the proverbial bus.

Such a situation requires leadership and decisive action otherwise patients and potential patients will become the victim of yet another political power game.

 

 

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