Minister Lee discusses new hospital with Minister Plasterk

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PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA) Emil Lee headed a delegation, which included Director of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) Kees Klarenbeek; Managing Director of corporate finance KPMG St. Maarten Henk de Zeeuw, and Director of the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary Perry Geerlings, to meet with Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk; Director of Kingdom Relations at the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Erwin Arkenbout, and Project Manager of the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and Healthcare BES Dr. Rob Sardeman, as part of a working visit to secure support for possible financing by the Netherlands for the new St Maarten hospital.

Previously, Minister Plasterk had expressed a willingness to consider offering technical assistance and possible financing for a new hospital based on a solid business plan that has the approval of the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT). The delegation met Minister Plasterk to update on the status of the new hospital project as the time is quickly approaching in order to make final plans.

During the meeting, Minister Lee presented the updated business plan for the new hospital to Minister Plasterk. Minister Lee also commented on the inclusive, open and transparent developmental process for what will be the new St. Maarten General Hospital. Minister Lee explained that the process of planning the new hospital has been a very inclusive approach that included feedback from many different stakeholders and experts. The plans for the hospital are practical and based on the needs of the population.

In 2015, a tripartite committee was formed between the Ministry of VSA, SZV and SMMC in order to develop sound planning for a new hospital to be realized. “It has become the tripartite committee’s objective that this process will guarantee the integrity of a new hospital regardless of any political changes that may take place. The people of St. Maarten need a new hospital that brings affordable, quality and accessible healthcare close to home. Quality healthcare should not be victimized by politics,” commented Minister Lee.

Minister Lee continued, “I found the meeting with Minister Plasterk to be extremely open and productive.  It is my sincere hope that the new hospital project can serve as a model for improved communications and cooperation between the Netherlands and St. Maarten. As health care costs globally increase, synchronized cooperation between kingdom partners is logical. A new hospital will also benefit the residents of Saba and Statia and by default should help the Netherlands to better manage healthcare costs for the BES islands. This would be a win-win partnership.”

Estimates are that possible financing through the Netherlands because of the low interest rates and longer-term would translate into a savings of operational costs of NAf. 6 million per year over the first ten years, which ultimately translates into a better range and quality of services available locally. The increased capacity in health care locally available would diversify the local economy and create many high paying jobs.

Plasterk said, “It’s a good thing that St. Maarten is improving its health care. The plan for the new hospital underlines this effort.”

In addition, the delegation inquired into the possibility of technical assistance to help the Ministry of VSA with items related to healthcare reform. “We must always take care of present needs, while keeping a clear eye on what future developments will be needed down the road,” concluded Minister Lee.

In Photo:

Erwin Arkenbout, Director Kingdom Relations at the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (MinBZK)

Minister Ronald Plasterk, Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (MinBZK)

Kees Klarenberg, Director of the St. Maarten Medical Centre

Rob Sardeman, Project Manager of the Ministry of VWS/Healthcare BES

Henk de Zeeuw, Managing Director of the Corporate Finance KPMG St. Maarten

Emil Lee, Minister VSA

Perry Geerlings, Director of the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary