The medical tourism project negotiations in Florida – The Wyvern Hotel: where it all began

POSTED: 11/23/12 1:10 PM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – On March 4 of last year nine people met at the Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda, Florida. It’s a place where a room cost $148 a night and it is located just across from Port Charlotte, the home town of the Advanced Orthopedic center of Samuel J. Hess. The meeting was chaired by Al Wathey. The other participants were Don Haight, Vice-President of the Hotel Corporation of America (now Chief Administrative Officer of the American Clinic), dr. George Scot, Director of the St. Maarten Medical Center, and a delegation from the St. Maarten government consisting of Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever, Fenna Arnell, Jorien Wuite, Len Dijkstra and Dennis Richardson.

Al Wathey opened the meeting. The subject: the establishment of a medical tourism project in St. Maarten. There were three parties involved in this meeting: the so-called doctor group (Hess and Haight), the SMMC (Scot) and the government of St. Maarten. Al Wathey is registered at the Chamber of Commerce as the director of Island Stone N.V., the company that owns a piece of land near Kimsha Beach, right next to the Royal Palm Beach Resort, where the American Clinic wants to build its medical tourism center.
Wathey asked the participants to use the meeting to create a list of key points to set the foundation for the development of the project.
The doctors group said in this meeting that the plan is “to bring in patients to the island who would use the doctor group clinic and the SMMC.” Hess talks about “a world class medical facility that would partner with the SMMC for all needs.” The clinic would not have any so-called “in-patient beds.”

To meet the government’s wish to offer extended medical services at a reduced cost for citizens, the doctor group would “ensure that the lowest cost would go to SXM patients.” Reduced cost would be offered to patients from neighboring islands and patients brought in under the medical tourism program would pay the full price.
The idea is to work out a 36-month plan. “Any space not used b y the SMMC could be used by the doctor group while the expansion of the SMMC is underway,” notes from the meeting of which this newspaper obtained a copy state.
The doctor group intended to build up a full blown medical tourism program that includes the use of the SMMC. “The integrated database system at the SMMC is a big plus for getting started,” Hess and Haight observe. They also offer to provide equipment needed for the upgrading of the SMMC. “The equipment would become the property of the SMMC under a lease or financing agreement to be worked out.”
The doctor group also wants an exclusive agreement with the government and the SMMC. Part of the deal would be a non-disclosure agreement, meaning that certain aspects will never be made public.
The government delegation is concerned about cannibalization: a staffing solution must be found to avoid this, either through recruitment, training or rotation. The delegation also wants to know which role the doctor group will play in the SMMC’s expansion.

The SMMC’s concerns are about the position of existing and currently visiting doctors. The project could mean a reduction in their business, Scot notes. He also points out that the hospital’s expansion must be handled as soon as possible. Nowhere in the notes of this meeting is a remark to be found demanding the involvement of Scot’s NV AnG Consulting. Minister De Weever suggested on Wednesday that it was a stumbling block for Scot that his NV would not be involved in the project.
March and April went by, and on May 18, there was a letter of intent. “To be replaced by a 3-way operating agreement” the headline reads. The partners in this letter of intent are the SMMC, the SVB and the American Clinic.

The letter requires the SMMC to appoint the American Clinic as the exclusive provider for all medical services at the SMMC. It also outlines the services the American Clinic will provide. The list contains nineteen fields, including stem cell research and treatment, plastic surgery, dental services, and pharmacy services.
Then, on the same day, a Memorandum of Understanding is drawn up. This time, the partners are the government of St. Maarten and the American Clinic. This draft-document refers to the three-agreement between the SMMC, the SVB and the American Clinic. It also mentions a medical review board – board members to be appointed by the government.
Among St. Maarten’s obligations are “to pass, amend and execute laws necessary to maintain the enforceability of the terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding and to ensure its continuity.”

Under the project description, the American Clinic suddenly establishes the intention to open temporary offices “to commence the treatment of island residents covered under the SVB and /or private insurance.” The clinic also is to establish relationships with the University of St. Martin and the American University of the Caribbean in Cupecoy.
Hess told this newspaper in September that he has struck a deal with the American University, these days under the ownership of Devry Inc., to develop teaching programs for technical healthcare jobs and for nursing that will be offered to local students.
Not worked out in this document, but still mentioned are a tax holiday, E-zone approval and exemption on import duties and levies on medical equipment brought in by the American Clinic, “in the event of the implementation of customs duties and levies by the government of St. Maarten in the future.”

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