Opinion: State secrets

POSTED: 05/26/14 3:12 PM

This weekend, we received a phone call from the attorney of pediatrician Martijn Tilanus. He was upset about the fact that, in an article that appeared on Saturday on our front page about the good doctor’s court case against the Sint Maarten Medical Center, we mentioned the salary he makes. Tilanus won that court case, by the way, and that is what we reported.

The attorney first wanted to know where this newspaper got the verdict, then went on to tell us that there was no need to mention the pediatrician’s salary in the article.

Obviously, we beg to differ. First of all, attorneys study to become attorneys and they are excused if they do not understand journalism. Secondly, given the pressure on the public health system it does no harm to offer readers an insight into the salaries the hospital pays its specialists. We have no reason to doubt that these salaries meet the industry-average, and if we find out later that we happen to be wrong on this point, we will gladly inform our readers about this.

The court ruling is a public document and – in general – everything that is in such a document is fit to print. We make exceptions for sensitive cases – for instance when they deal with incest or domestic violence and there is an obvious need to protect the identity of victims.

But this does not apply to a simple piece of information like the salary of a pediatrician. We know what the income is of our prime minister, our ministers and our Members of Parliament. At least, we know how much money they get for these functions. Publicity of salaries is of these times. The sixties of last century, when fathers closed the curtains at home because they did not want their neighbors to see how they were counting their (cash) salaries together with their wives, is behind us. Openness is always better than secrecy.

The pediatrician’s attorney obviously has a different opinion. We live in a free country and he is of course entitled to it. One of the remarks he made was, what will nurses think now that they know how much the doctor earns?

Well, what should they be thinking? That nurses are so special that they are entitled to the same income as a specialist?

Come on. We all know that if you want to provide good healthcare, you have to hire the right people and pay them a correct salary. And in our world, such salaries should not be state secrets.

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