Minister Lee: Sharing best and worst practices

Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee


PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Emil Lee addressed the media in Wednesday’s, June 7, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.

He made a brief statement about the “Taste of the Caribbean” this past week, which is a CHTA event in Miami. Florida, which is their chief or Caribbean hospitality industry exchange forum. This is where the industry comes together with suppliers and stakeholders, more from an operational perspective to exchange ideas about how to operate more efficiently.

This year CHTA merged that event with Taste of the Caribbean as for several years Taste of the Caribbean had been operating independently.

Minister Lee commended the national team, and the individual members for winning different awards in their category. “Overall, the team from St. Maarten took a silver medal home for their performance.”

The Minister also informed that he had just returned from the Health Conference in Aruba. This is a conference about integrated health care. “Really, what is it talking about if we want to make sure that we’re delivering a high quality of care to our people? We need to make sure that the system works well together…everybody has a role to play in terms of making sure we deliver the best quality care for affordable price to our people, and so the conference was really attended by policymakers, by surgeons, by health professionals, consultants,” Minister Lee said.

“In this conference, because it’s always good to walk away with specific and actionable steps, there were two agreements that were signed. One was an agreement for cooperation signed between the inspectors of St. Maarten and Aruba, and their agreement is to establish a closer working cooperation amongst the parties and to facilitate mutual support through, amongst other things, the exchange of manpower and knowledge experience and information related to the supervisory tasks of the inspectorate,” the Minister explained.

“In areas for parties of mutual interest and some of the things they’re focusing on in particular are cooperation in the development of inspection tools and inspection standards; cooperation in the field of drug registration; cooperation in order to facilitate exchange of expertise, or joint training as well as cooperation in the context of expected expansions of inspectorate tasks, such as food safety, drinking water and the environment,” Minister Lee continued.

“Because there’s two cooperation agreements or what I have signed is a letter of intent. So just to clarify: one agreement was signed between the inspectors of St. Maarten and from Aruba, and the other agreement that was signed between the Ministers from Aruba, Curaçao and myself from St. Maarten,” the Minister continued.

“And as we look at how do we integrate care and how do we make sure that we deliver the best quality of care for our people, there’s a lot of things that we’re doing in the individual countries that are repetitive, that we’re overlapping. So we’re spending money, for example, developing the hospitals which all operate with protocols. Protocols are detailed manual for practices in all types of cases, what’s the correct way to operate. These are things that every hospital has to have and instead of all of our hospitals individually spending money to develop these things, it makes sense to coordinate so that we can economize with our money and get how we can improve the cooperation between the various countries,” Minister Lee further explained.

“But we signed a letter of intent, which still has to be ratified by the Council of Ministers, but there’s nothing in here that has any real financial consequences and this is really based on previous agreements, so I don’t anticipate any problems in terms of executing this cooperation,” the Minister stated.

The points in the agreement that are focused on is preventive care. “How do we make sure that we’re focused on non-communicable diseases in particular? So we’re talking about cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer, so anything we can share in terms of best practices or protocols in terms of how we’re educating our population, and how we’re executing preventative care protocols to make sure that our populations are healthy,” Minister Lee said.

There is structured cooperation between all the hospitals, who are all working towards a JCI accreditation. “So that gives us again good synergies. We all seem to be pointed in the same direction, working on developing benchmarks so that we can understand it, gives us a good comparison to see how is the hospital actually performing. Also structured cooperation between our public health insurance companies,” he continued.

“It makes sense to try and bulk our purchases together as well as sharing best practices and worst practices. Gathering data I’d like to see that a dashboard is developed again for hospitals and for the health insurance companies that give us an idea how they’re individually performing, and that we can compare against each other,” the Minister further explained.

“Strategies to address the pharmaceutical drug costs, St. Maarten is in the process of doing that, so again there’s a lot that we can learn from our neighbors in terms of what they’ve done, what’s been effective and hopefully. St. Maarten can benefit from their experiences and get it even better than they have done it,” Minister Lee said.

“…and for me not even so much about the price, but more about the services that they offer to make sure that we’re really getting a streamlined operation terms of reference for health care performance audit. Aruba, in particular, is very interested in having their entire health care system audited by a professional entity. Again if that entity is hired we’re looking at the possibility can they compare all three islands. To see again benchmarking against each other,” the Minister continued.

The Minister also mentioned reaching out to PAHO for an analysis about environmental risk factors. This refers mostly to the dump, and in Aruba and Curaçao, the refineries. “So there’s concerns about how do we, as Ministries of Health, lay out the parameters in terms of emissions, in terms of from a health perspective, how these entities should be managed and so again that’s something that we’re working on collaboratively.” Minister Lee said.

“We’ve already established that our follow-up meeting will be in the last week of July, and we already expect to have some tangible progress to discuss in that meeting, and also then discussions about how to move further,” Minister Lee concluded.