Dr. Petit’s comments are “concerning,” says Minister Lee

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Photo from Meeting of SZV Board with Minister Lee from Dec 2015. 

PHILIPSBURG – During the Council of Ministers Press briefing, Minister of Public Health, Social and Labour Affairs Emil Lee commented on the release issued by former Chairman of the supervisory board of SZV Dr. Michel Petit, where he stated that he resigned from the board due to the “overreaching and undue influence” from the Minister.

“Personally, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Petit as a medical professional, but I question his effectiveness as Chairman of the SZV board and I am disappointed that this is playing out in the media instead of a professional manner. I have reviewed my notes from meetings and correspondences between Dr. Petit and myself. I have not found one instance where Dr. Petit has mentioned that he believed I was exerting ‘overreaching and undue influence’ or acting in some way inappropriately,” said Minister Lee.

“If he was truly concerned about inappropriate behavior, a true professional would address the issue openly and bring it up for discussion. The first time I ever heard this claim was from his press release issued on Sunday,” commented Minister Lee.

“I’ve checked my agenda and found that we have only had 3 meetings, I had one introductory meeting with the supervisory board including Dr. Petit in December 2015, a meeting in my office with Dr. Petit on February 26, 2016, and the final time I met with some of the members of the SZV supervisory board was at the farewell reception for Dr. Petit last week,” stated Minister Lee

Minister Lee said that in the meeting of December 2015, he explained to the Supervisory Board that he had the intention to reverse the decision by the previous government about proceeding with the design and construction of the new hospital with Vamed.

“At that time, Dr. Petit raised a number of points as to why I would be undoing the process offered. He recommended that instead of doing a transparent bidding process, I should just hire two external consultants and let them review the project to ensure that the project cost is not inflated. I reiterated that I’m not against Vamed, but I need to make sure that the people of St. Maarten are getting the best value for their money. I questioned why it would be so hard to put out for a bid, as we all want to spend the people’s money responsibly. Again, Dr. Petit was of the opinion that there was no need to ‘undo’ the process. In the end I stood behind the open bidding process,” Lee explained.

“Much of the correspondence between us revolves around my insistence that the board of SZV has failed to live up to some of its responsibilities as obligated by law and on improved compliance. Some points that were mentioned included the failure to nominate board members on time, failure to nominate a director on time, failure to nominate a deputy director at all, and failure to submit annual board reports on time for 2015 and 2014,” he continued.

“There were a number of issues that I believe we’ve been consistently bringing up, and if Dr. Petit considers that overreaching and undue influence, then that’s simply not true. As Minister I have a responsibility of ensuring that the board is adhering to their obligations. Informing them in writing on what they need to work on is certainly appropriate,” said Minister Lee.

Minister Lee continued by saying that as the Chairman of SZV, “Dr. Petit had the responsibility to protect SZV and its funds. If Dr. Petit had real concerns, he should have documented his concerns in writing, but instead he simply resigned and opted to protect himself from future claims by filing a formal complaint with the Office of the Public Prosecutor.”