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Minister De Weever refuses to honor SMMC’s request – “Information endangers unity of government"

St. Maarten /By Hilbert Haar – Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever has denied providing information requested by the St. Maarten Medical Center related to the ministry’s inspectorate and to licenses for the establishment of healthcare centers. The Court in First Instance instructed the ministry to take a decision about the request by November 20.

“The information requested endangers the unity of government by creating a rift between various entities and ministries if the request would be honored,” De Weever writes in a letter dated November 16 that reached the hospital yesterday. “The safety of the country will also be damaged as patients will increasingly shy away from the SMMC. This could possibly lead to the bankruptcy of the sole hospital in the country and have a damaging impact as government will not be able to guarantee quality healthcare.”

The SMMC asked the minister on September 20 for any instructions given by him to the Inspectorate of Public Health related to the hospital, for licenses granted for the establishment of health centers, for a copy of the memorandum of understanding signed between the government and the American Clinic and for the national decree containing the decision about the appointment of Inspector-General Earl Best.

The SMMC based its request on the national ordinance on public administration (landsverordening openbaarheid van bestuur, or Lob). In his reply, Minister De Weever declares the request “inadmissible” based on the argument that the board of directors of the SMMC represents the hospital in all legal matters. “It should at all times be unambiguous who is legally authorized to represent the SMMC and that representation must be compliant with any relevant legislation,” the minister wrote.

The letter then recalls that the supervisory council of the SMMC was requested on August 21 “to provide a number of documents to enable this office to ascertain the relationship between the sole member of the board of directors and a contract with an AnG Consulting/Consultancy NV (AnG) to provide services that should be provided by an individual that is a member of the board of directors. The documents as requested have not been promptly delivered and are therefore still pending.”

The letter goes on to explain that “the minister has already expressed that a construct whereby a third party is used to provide services that an individual should be providing is not in compliance with the law.”

Referring to hospital Director Dr. George Scot as “the same member of the board of directors” the letter states that Scot has “recently received an instruction from the inspectorate to either nullify the aforementioned contract or resign as a member of the board of directors.”

The instruction is part of an ongoing investigation, and it is “not unthinkable” that the inspectorate will “continue to seek and use all recourse to its disposal to ensure quality care.”

Minister De Weever says furthermore in his letter that he “needs to initiate the necessary procedure (civil/legislative/criminal) to ensure that clarity and good governance is achieved in an as short as possible time.”

The letter states that any information requested by the SMMC “should be from its legally authorized representative” and that this information “should only be delivered to an individual as per the articles of incorporation of the SMMC and (indirectly) based on the Landsverordening Zorginstellingen.”

The minister maintains in his letter that any information requested by the SMMC “will automatically end up in the hands of a third party (AnG), a legal entity whose mere existence is questionable.”

In short, the minister considers the information request by the SMMC as a request by a third party (AnG) and “that third party is not recognized as the legal representative of the SMMC.”

Minister de Weever brought forth a third argument to deny the SMMC the information: “It’s not established that the SMMC has any prevailing interests in obtaining said documents. The minister considers this request as a gleaming example of poor management to not speak of mismanagement. It is a blatant attempt to diffuse the matter of mismanagement at the SMMC by the board of directors and the lack of supervision by the supervisory council.”

The minister notes that entertaining the request for information “will inevitably lead to frivolous remarks and attempts to discredit the ministry, the minister or the inspectorate of public health and to delay aforementioned parties of taking the necessary steps to prevent lives from being put at danger.”

De Weever also threatens the hospital with legal action: “It is being determined whether or not certain matters should be brought to the attention of the public prosecutor.”

The minister furthermore refuses to provide the requested information because “any or all of the requested documents if indeed available are or should be part of the file the inspectorate holds on SMMC. (….) Any interest SMMC may believe it has cannot at this point outweigh or stand in the way of the Inspectorate of Public health or the minister doing what is necessary to save lives. Remarkably, the request alludes to a peculiar reversal of roles as if the SMMC believes to be above the inspectorate of public health and/or government or at least (to be) equal partners to them.”

Editorial from Today Newspaper: A bit like Gaza

The St. Maarten Medical Center must feel a bit like Gaza strip residents under the attacks by Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever and his Inspectorate.

The latest installment in the war of words is the minister’s reaction to a perfectly normal request for information the SMMC submitted based on the national ordinance for public administration – “de landsverordening openbaarheid van bestuur”.

The vitriolic reaction that only came after the court forced the minister to take a decision, goes far beyond stating the reasons for the minister’s position that the requested information will not be provided.

The government’s unity is in danger, the safety of the country will be damaged, the mere existence of hospital Director Scot’s NV is labeled as questionable, and the minister is contemplating bringing “certain matters” (whatever they may be) to the attention of the public prosecutor.

What all this shows is that the SMMC has touched a nerve with its information-request. There is now more than ever reason to believe that the orchestrated attack on the hospital is driven by the medical tourism agenda.

Source: Today, November 21, 2012

Note from the SabaNews Editor:
SabaNews informs her readers about the issues related to the St. Maarten Medical Center because this institute is of key importance for the Health Care on Saba.

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