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St. Maarten minister De Weever says actions SMMC must be within country’s legal framework


PHILIPSBURG–Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Sunday that any actions he or government takes in relation to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) “must be within the legal framework of our country and will not and shall not exclude the introduction of new legislation or amending existing laws or the amendment of existing licences.”
De Weever said in a press statement issued on Sunday that legislative processes took time, considering the necessary consultations and checks and balances. “However, in the event no other options are left, I shall proceed and expedite matters in the general interest of St. Maarten and my duty of care.”

The minister’s statement comes on the heels of a strongly-worded letter he was sent from the attorneys representing SMMC General Director Dr. George Scot and SMMC’s Supervisory Council in which the minister was told that the Council would not resign as had been requested. In the letter the minister also was requested to stop interfering in the affairs of SMMC and to stop slandering the institution.

In his release De Weever said that as Minister charged with public health, it was his duty to see to it that all care institutions in St. Maarten not only adhered to the laws governing the health care sector, but also to ensure that the provisions of those laws were not only enforced, but could be enforced justly.

“Patients, nurses, specialists, staff, management and board members of care institutions must know their responsibilities and should have been provided with the means to effectively perform their duties or seek their rights,” it was stated in the release.

“No one care institute in the world is perfect. However, that doesn’t mean that together we cannot strive for perfection. It is not uncommon that at times members of boards develop tunnel vision that no longer allows them to see their faults even when presented with sound arguments thereto.

“Boards at times may have established practices that are either inconsistent with the rules governing their institutions or that are interpretable/questionable. Both situations are undesirable with regard to the provision of care. Rules must be clear, logical and adhered to. Non-adherence to, misinterpretation or circumvention of laws, bylaws or own code of conduct is not conducive to any board, especially if such relates to our country’s largest care institution.

“The laws of our nation charge the Minister of Public Health with the issuance of various care-related licences, the amendment or revocation of previously issued ones. Furthermore, the Minister of Public Health can initiate and, together with his colleague ministers, pass resolutions (laws) that may have far reaching consequences.
“Subsequently or independently, government may together with the Parliament of St. Maarten pass new ordinances or amend existing ones to ensure that the minister charged with public health can effectively and proactively ensure the wellbeing of the citizens of St. Maarten and visitors alike.

“The extent to which the present laws allow government to intervene is far-reaching and doesn’t exclude intervening on the highest levels of any care institution. The situation at the SMMC is a very delicate matter and must be handled with the most care and as professionally as possible.

“The Public Health Department (research/policy), the Inspectorate of Public Health (inspection/issuance of fines/set instructions) play a crucial role in the public health management field and in my capacity as Minister, I cannot simply ignore those two key departments when addressing matters as presently is the case.

“As stated earlier, no institution is perfect, it is therefore necessary to continuously consult relevant stakeholders and professionals in the health care sector to strengthen and improve the governing structures of health care providers so they may improve their provision of care.

“Rest assured that I will do all that is necessary within my capacity to ensure that St. Maarten has a medical centre that is of the highest standards and that can meet the needs of the specialists, nurses, staff and most importantly the patients of the SMMC.”

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