PHILIPSBURG:--- Minister of VSA Emil Lee provided some answers to the questions that was posed to him last week in the public meeting of parliament regarding health care on St. Maarten.
The Minister told parliament that he was not a signatory to the agreement signed between SZV and SMMC and therefore he could not provide parliament with that document. With regards to the recruitment of a new director of SZV the Minister clarified that the current director contract is not up in June, but in fact, the person could hold the position until a new director is found. He also told parliament that he is not responsible for the recruitment of the director but that falls under the Supervisory Board of SZV and that his sole responsibility is to appoint the candidate. Minister Lee told Parliament that SMMC informed him that the nurses that were demoted from RN to LPN did not pass a certain examination even though they took the exams at least three times. Minister Lee said that these nurses have to administer medication to patients and as such, they had to go through a re-evaluation process. Minister Lee also informed Parliament that the JCI baseline study will commence mid-April and that the Ministry will be paying for it. This sparked a question from MP Meyers who asked if the Inspectorate (IVSA) is not competent enough to conduct that audit.
The Minister also told parliament that he did not give instructions to SZV to invest monies in the new government building or general hospital while SZV did not have a contract. He said the instructions were given by the Prime Minister William Marlin and Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr. MP Meyers asked Minister Lee to expound on that because he cannot understand how the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance could instruct the director of an institution that falls under the Ministry of VSA, MP Meyers said that he would not have accepted such a thing.
During the second round of the meeting, the MPS from the opposition in parliament focused mainly on the role of the Health Inspectorate and the audit that has to take place at SMMC. MP Franklin Meyers asked the Minister if the Inspectorate is not independent enough to audit the health care institutions on St. Maarten and what really is the role of the Inspectorate. He asked if issuing a gag order to the inspectorate was in the Minister’s purview and if what he did was legal. MP Meyers even reminded the Minister how his MB (gag order) hindered the Inspectorate when the Brazilian meat scandal broke. He said that the islands around the Caribbean and in countries around North America took action but because of the gag order the Inspectorate on St. Maarten could not act in a timely manner because they were not allowed to make statements to warn the community.
MP Franklin Meyers also posed questions about the working conditions at SMMC, the qualification of doctors that are being hired at SMMC. He asked about the complaint the Inspector General Dr. Earl Best filed with the Ombudsman of St. Maarten. MP Meyers also asked about the gag order management of SMMC issued to its staff not to speak with inspectors from the Inspectorate. He asked the Minister what has he done besides silencing the Inspectorate with the MB he issued. MP Meyers also asked the Minister to inform Parliament how many court cases were filed by SMMC and against SMMC in the last 18 months and how many cases the Inspectorate investigated during the same period. He said he was in possession of documents where a negative advice was issued for certain doctors and specialists that applied for establishment permits but despite the negative advice the Minister issued MB's and allowed unqualified doctors to work at the SMMC. He said based on what he has seen thus far the Minister is supporting SMMC and not the Inspectorate, an entity that is charged with ensuring that proper health care is provided to the people of St. Maarten.
As for the INSO contract, he asked the Minister to explain parliament how would this project be carried out since he told parliament that INSO stated that they have their own contractor, he asked what does this mean for local contractors if INSO has their own contractors.
MP Claret Conner also hammered some of the same questions because he said clarity has to be given on the actions taken by the Minister especially knowing that the Inspectorate is an independent entity that has certain tasks. He said that while he might sound repetitive the Minister has to know that health care is of uttermost importance on St. Maarten.
MP Tamara Leonard also focused on the MB (gag order) issued by the Minister to the Inspectorate and if such was legal. She asked the Minister what is the working relationship is like between him and the Inspectorate because for her that is important since the Inspectorate is the body that has to ensure quality care is provided on St. Maarten.
MP Leonard also asked the Minister if all doctors and nurses on St. Maarten will be audited, she asked the Minister when he would take action against the alleged verbal abuse patients has to endure at Dr. de Windt’s clinic.
MP Leonard also asked the Minister to provide parliament with the profile on how candidates are selected for positions. MP Leonard also asked the Minister to inform Parliament on the care patients of St. Maarten is receiving in the Cayman Islands.
Member of Parliament George Pantophelt asked about the referrals procedures because for him that is quite important since they are dealing with the health of the people.
MP Rodolph Samuel wanted more clarity on VROMI’s involvement in the New General Hospital Project that will be constructed by INSO.The meeting was adjourned for a lack of quorum, it should be noted that the chair of parliament adjourned the meeting for the Minister to decide on how he will proceed in answering the questions posed to him, during that break some MPS left their seats and as soon as the adjournment time was up and the MPS were not in their seats the chair of parliament adjourned the meeting for a lack of quorum she announced that the continuation might be some time next week