PM calls hospital’s lack of cooperation frustrating

POSTED: 07/1/14 1:40 AM

“SMMC is grabbing at straws regarding possible financing structures”

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams has severely criticized the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) and her own Minister of Public Health Cornelius de Weever over the lack of progress with plans for the hospital’s upgrade and expansion.

In a press statement, Wescot-Williams notes that SMMC-director Kees Klarenbeek told her and De Weever during a meeting on Thursday, June 19, “that the interference of politicians in the plans for the hospital has created a confusing situation” and that this has resulted in “the reluctance of SMMC to commit to any solution for the hospital at this time.”

Representatives of pension funds APS and social insurance agency SZV were present in the meeting. The hospital has been negotiating with both entities about the financing of its expansion plans.

Wescot-Williams states in the press release that the meeting on June 19 “only came about upon the government’s insistence” after “the blatant refusal by the SMMC-board to meet with the Council of Ministers.”

Public Health Minister de Weever has been negotiating with APS, SZV and the hospital after it became clear that the preferred option of a low-interest loan via the government was not possible. The financial supervisor Cft blocked this possibility.

Wescot-Williams notes that the minister of public health is “totally disappointed that the SMMC is allowing itself to be guided in what it terms as political interference.” However, the PM notes, “at the same time (Minister De Weever) seems to be a willing participant in the same interference.”

Somewhat mysteriously, this statement concludes with the following remark: “The minister has refrained until now from subjecting the medical institution again to negative publicity since the public pounding several months ago.”

Wescot-Williams labels  SMMC’s “lack of cooperation” as “frustrating” and wonders “what agenda SMMC is perusing by currently stonewalling all attempts to get to the start of the plans for the (new) hospital.”

The Prime Minister calls on the hospital’s board and management “to work diligently with the government of St. Maarten to provide relief to staff and patients by consenting to the urgent repairs as a first step towards the hospital’s new plans.”

Wescot-Williams notes that SMMC’s management and board “for unknown reasons have opted not to negotiate with the government and government entities (APS and SZV – ed.).” According to the PM the hospital seems bent on “going outside of the regular government parameters,” adding that that “eventually puts the government in a bind.”

According to the press release, the hospital has not yet informed the government about which “this institution’s management has seemingly endorsed.”

This last remark seems to suggest that the hospital has lent a willing ear to UP-leader Theo Heyliger recent announcement that his party is “committed and ready” for the construction of a complete new hospital. In his announcement, published in this newspaper on June 23, Heyliger said amongst others that the party is exploring ways to fund the construction of a new hospital.

Wescot-Williams is apparently not impressed by these ideas, as she states in her press release: “The SMMC is grabbing at straws regarding possible financing structures and refuses therefore to consider the current options on the table that will benefit the country as well.”

The government is now awaiting which actions the SMMC will take in collaboration with the Aps and the SZV.

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