St. Maarten Medical Center board members refuse to go – Attorneys summon minister to stop slandering hospital

POSTED: 09/9/12 11:56 PM

St. Maarten / 7 Sept. 2012 – After two members of the Harbor Holding refused to take marching orders from Economic affairs Minister Romeo Pantophlet, the board of the Sint Maarten Medical Center is following the same line of action. The attorneys for the SMMC, mrs. Roeland Zwanikken and Camiel Koster sent a letter to Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever yesterday, announcing that the board members will not comply with the request to vacate their seats. They also summon De Weever to stop interfering and to stop slandering the hospital’s reputation
The attorneys point out that SMMC is a private foundation. “The minister has only very limited power to interfere with the corporate structure of SMMC. Based on the articles of incorporation the minister needs only to be consulted regarding the appointment, suspension or dismissal of members of the board. With regard to the appointment of members of the supervisory council the minister only has the possibility to choose out of one of two binding nominations presented by the supervisory council. If the minister does not make a choice within two months after receipt of the nominations, then the supervisory council shall choose one of the nominees,” Zwanikken and Koster wrote.
Minister de Weever submitted three requests to SMMC over the past couple of weeks. On August 21 he demanded “full disclosure” about the legal status of the board, including appointment, employment contract and management agreements; on August 31 the minister demanded that the members of the supervisory board resign. And on September 1 – last Saturday – he requested the supervisory board “not to enter into any agreement that may have far reaching consequences for the future of SMMC.
Zwanikken and Koster note in their letter that it is unclear to his client on what rule of law, or statute of law these requests are based.
“In case you are of the opinion that there is a legal basis for the requests and that compliance can be legally enforced then please feel free to elaborate on them in a letter addressed to this firm. (the law office of Bergman Zwanikken Snow Essed – ed.). In that case you are also kindly requested to explicitly refer to the applicable articles in the law or the applicable provisions in the articles of incorporation of SMMC.”
The attorneys also expressed the hospitals displeasure with negative press statements made by the minister. “Please be also advised that clients are not pleased at all that you have decided to go to the press with negative statements about SMMC, allegedly based on a report of the inspectorate, a report that my clients had not received yet. Clients consider this a violation of article 2, c, e and f of the Landsverordening Openbaarheid van Bestuur (LOB). Your statements have created unrest and have unnecessarily decreased the confidence in the largest care giving institution of the Dutch Windward Islands for residents of Sint Maarten, Saba and Statia. The fact that these statements came from the minister of health cannot be deemed other than as being (very) irresponsible.”
The kicker of the letter is in the last paragraph, where the attorneys tackle the political interference with a private foundation. “Please be advised that SMMC is of the opinion that political interference with its organization and its daily operations is undesirable and inappropriate, especially in case the interference lacks any legal basis. Moreover your interference and the interference of the health committee of parliament have a detrimental effect on SMMC, its doctors, its employees, its patients and the public opinion of the people of Sint Maarten. SMMC request you – and in so far as necessary summons you – to immediately cease this interference and public slandering of SMMC.”

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