Public Health Minister De Weever: National wellness approach is gaining momentum

POSTED: 01/18/13 1:55 PM

St. Maarten – For 2013 it’s all about promoting jobs and protecting people, Dr. Cornelius de Weever said at Wednesday’s launch of the governing program.
With responsibility for the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA), de Weever has a budget of 59 million guilders and a staff of 139 civil servants with which to execute his many plans. While he remains a part of the National Alliance/Democratic Party/Independent-3 coalition, the minister assured that St. Maarten will continue along the course towards becoming the “wellness centre of the Caribbean.” But with some of his plans heading into 2016, and 2014 being an election year, only time will tell whether the Working for the People governing programme will run its course.
“The challenge is for us to be smarter and use our limited resources in an efficient manner,” the minister said.
He described his ministry as “the hardest working” ministry within the government apparatus to cheers of approval from the modest audience that was in attendance at the launch.
Strengthen government’s social agenda, renew or modify policies, reduce bureaucracy, strengthen supervision and adherence to legislation, national, regional and international cooperation and partnerships.

Labour
“As we acknowledge the first positive outcomes of employability programs, we recognize the global trend of high youth unemployment and therefore embrace the labour vision to ensure that the people of St. Maarten are fairly employed and that they apply themselves on the job,” the minister said.
This year he projects a proactive approach to job placement, effective registration and more use of the labour management information system (LMIS) to justify every decision that will be made.
Decisions such as the revision of the foreign employment legislation, short term contracts, the dismissal law and employment agencies will premised on data, Minister de Weever emphasized.

Health and Social Security
In the area of health and social security, the minister spoke of accelerating the quality of life, through a 4 year program. Improvements are to be phased out and extend to 2016.
His final destination?
“A supportive social security and health system that is based on clarity and good governance,” as well as “a system that gives the customer a central place.”
That vision the minister said makes provision for medical tourism and “ultimately ensures that St. Maarten becomes the wellness centre of the Caribbean where our population can experience an improved quality of life,” the minister stated.
He wants to do so through improvements in the basic health and social security infrastructure, additional regulations, more supervision, increased health promotion activities and data collection on the needs of the population.
In the area of public health, he plans to establish a water authority and push for policy reforms in quality of care, prevention and health education.
In the meantime, in the area of social development, he spoke only of increases.
“Increase pension benefits, even adding a second layer in our pension system, adjusting financial aid and more partnerships.”
He used a cartoon to illustrate his ministry’s course towards a wholistic individual and nation.

Achievements
In his address, the minister not only spoke of his vision for the ministry but spent a great deal of time on achievements to date. It read like a resume for VSA.
“With performance in mind, I believe an 82 percent accomplishment should be acknowledged and respected for the work team VSA has achieved,” he stated.
He did not say whether the 82 percent accomplishment was based on an internal or external evaluation but indicated he was still awaiting the official rating.
He cited initiatives such as HIV/ Aids and RED Campaign, Integrated Neighbourhood Development Programme, the Community Help Desks, SEI: Employability through Training project and the facelift of the Labour Office on the Pondfill as achievements over the last two years.
The establishment of the SZV and the policy units for labour, public health and social development in 2011 were also highlighted.
For 2012, the minister said that investments into customer service training and technology had also yielded good results.
He spoke of an improved turnaround time, the appointment system and translation services at Labour Affairs, the labour market information system, the E-SZV, the health management information system and various policies and forms that are now on the government website to indicate that VSA is moving in the right direction.
He reiterated that the completion of the draft legislation for Social Security and Health Reform, the AOV increase, the National Health Insurance (NHI), dismissal procedures and financial aid draft national decrees all “deserve recognition.”
“The people’s ministry,” the minister said had out numerous positions on critical issues such as short term contracts, environmental health, temporary employment agencies and accelerating the quality of life.

Evidence Based Policy Making
The minister said that the availability of statistics is important in order to make responsible decisions.
“Many VSA agencies such as the Labour Affairs, Inspectorate and Collective Preventative Services produce many facts and figures that provide careful insight to analyze trends and needs for required changes.
In summary we have managed to introduce the performance management, prepare and conduct various research studies leading to informed decision making, establish the appeals committee for social services, establish the community help desk, improving customer service at the labour and social affairs, improve ambulance services and recruit the right people for critical positions.”

St. Maarten Medical Center
A brief paragraph in the section Improved Wellness and Health Care of the governing programme referred to the St. Maarten Medical Center.
“As part of its investments in public infrastructure, government will increase the level of expenditures in the infrastructure of public health and health care systems. In concrete terms, government will continue to ensure that the St. Maarten Medical Centre meets the needs of a growing and changing St. Maarten demography as well as expands its services to accommodate more medical specialties and support services. In addition, government intends to pursue the development of medical tourism on St. Maarten. Simultaneously, government will also strengthen its control and supervisory capacity in this area by placing emphasis on an effective Inspectorate of Public Health.”
Though, Minister de Weever made no direct reference to the SMMC during his remarks, several sections of the audience remarked that his greatest accomplishment to date may have been getting rid of the hospital’s director.

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