PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Former Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, now Member of Parliament (MP) Cornelius de Weever changed the classification of the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) from a peripheral hospital to a central hospital.
By doing so he ensured that all new services that were or could not be offered before would and could be available at the SMMC. This meant that SMMC could now charge for services in the area of cardiology because as a peripheral hospital SMMC could not provide that service and patients would have to travel to Curaçao.
Secondly, while negotiating with SMMC, after the departure of the then director and some board members who did not reside on St. Maarten, it was decided that SMMC would participate in the tariff study after many years of refusing and just demanding an increase. It was only after that study was completed could anyone increase the tariffs of SMMC.
It is important to know the history behind the “claims” of those who pretend to have done everything in nine months. As Minister, MP de Weever and the Ministry VSA fought tirelessly to get to this point. It was not an easy journey and the many confrontations between SMMC’s Board and Director with the Inspectorate of VSA are all well documented and the level and quality of care started to be addressed. An inventory and projected specialist demands were done based on the population size as well.
Floating a bond for US $30 million to finance the expansion of SMMC was proposed and SMMC, SZV, APS and the government started working together. The proposed expansion was limited especially with the future demand, and the potential to develop medical tourism. Medical tourism is not limited to the US market, but also included Canada and the region. Many hours were spent getting all stakeholders to this point.
To go on public bid or not? That is the question that many are asking. A minister or any institution can decide based on their procurement policy. Should one decide not to go to a public bid it has to be justified why you are deviating from that process.
For example, the building of the Pointe Blanche I/II water plant did not go on public bid because 1. We were faced with a water shortage and 2. The contract with Seven Seas had a provision for them to sell us water that exceeded the agreed upon amount. This project was built by the former Minister de Weever, GEBE and Seven Seas working together to ensure that the needs of the people are met. In addition, SOAB was requested to conduct an audit and that was done to ensure every penny was accounted for.
The infrastructure work that needed to be completed for the second phase of the water plant was scheduled to start during the off-season April to October and is now delayed. More than likely, this work will start in the high season and will create even more traffic in the Pointe Blanche area.
Let us put politics aside for a moment. Anytime one leaves an appointed or elected office the work that was in process should be completed. There are consequences for inaction and consequences for deviating from a sound plan. Disrupting only sets our island back and politics should not be played with the people’s health.