“You are misleading the people” – De Weever attacks media over SMMC-reporting

POSTED: 09/13/12 1:19 PM

St. Maarten – Public Health, Social Development and Labour Minister Cornelius de Weever launched an all-out assault on the local media over what he called misleading information provided on developments at the St.Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC).

Armed with copies of articles from the Today and the Daily Herald newspapers as well as local internet news sites, the Minister on Tuesday berated the media over questioning his role in the affairs of the SMMC. He could give no direct erroneous information produced by Today but alluded to remarks made on our Opinion page.

Reporters from the Daily Herald ended up in a debate with the minister during yesterday’s weekly Council of Ministers press briefing over his statements.

“If we are country we expect transparency from government and professionalism from journalism. You are misleading the people whether intentional or unintentional,” a clearly peeved de Weever said.

De Weever has been embattled with the SMMC over a month long war of words and which escalated when the Inspectorate of Public Health placed the foundation run facility under what it called “higher supervision” over the weekend.

“The inspectorate is an independent body and whether they choose to issue any sanctions against the medical centre they are free to do so. They do not have to inform me necessarily because they act independently,” the minister stated.

“There was definitely no glitch in the days as was presumed,” de Weever said of the timing within which the Inspectorate issued its sanction, adding that he “will not apologize for doing my job, if they have to end up in court and I am there, then so be it.”

He indicated that on several occasions he advised the supervisory board of the SMMC that he viewed it necessary for them to get in contact with the Corporate Governance Council and even sent letters on July 19 and July 21 to that effect.

“Whether you use the Corporate Governance Council or the Corporate Governance Code I believe that would be doing things the right way. It appears that those who believe that it is a private foundation and they can do what they want they can have lawyers make statements to me, it’s ok. I have a responsibility to the people of St.Maarten,” de Weever slighted.

The minister also clarified that he had never requested that the SMMC board resign but that it may have been the best thing for them to do considering the dastardly report compiled by the Inspectorate about the hospital’s operations.

“In my letter of August 31, I never asked them to resign; I ask them to reconsider their position. You can interpret it or misinterpret it whatever way you want. I think it warranted them to reconsider because of the way in which it was done.”

The Inspectorate had charged that if the SMMC fails to clean up its act poste haste then several functional units would be closed. When asked what measures would be taken to continuously provide health care to residents in the event an integral department of the medical facility is closed, de Weever was vague in his response and did not definitely say that the government already had a plan in place for this.

“As far as closing down functional units are concerned, if that is what they deem necessary for the quality and safety of patient care then that is what they have to do. If we have to ship people off-island or to the French side.

Responding to criticism that his role in the developments at the SMMC was controversial and represented political interference, de Weever said that he would stand by his position.

“Everybody just wants to do what they want to do. This position represents the people and if you are telling the people don’t interfere then we have a different interpretation. As long as I am sitting in that chair, I will do what I have to do.”

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