SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – During the council of Minister’s press briefing of Wednesday March 6, Minister of VSA Emil Lee elaborated on the increase of medical services now available at the SMMC, in part due to the 2018 tariff adjustment. Maximum tariffs were set per January 1, 2018. Prior to the adjustment, the SMMC was operating at a financial loss and challenged to provide new medical services. The adjustment has made possible the addition of a new urology department, the eye care clinic and this month orthopedics services, while a test phase for neurology and pulmology has already begun.
“What does this mean to our population? It means that the barriers to care are now being dropped. It means that you can access the care close to home for which you previously had to travel abroad. And those referrals abroad cost the country much more money than providing them locally. It means that patients are close to home, spend less time away from work and have a family network around them for care. In reality, this is an improvement not only in quality of life – this is also financially better for the country. Besides that, every dollar that we are spending circulates in our economy. Instead of exporting it to another country.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA
Minister Lee elaborated on the background of the 2018 decision for the tariff adjustment: Prior to 10-10-10, in 2004 the SMMC was considered a peripheral medical center and the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Curaçao (SEHOS) was considered the main hospital. With the switch in 10-10-10, the structure changed and both SMMC and the SEHOS were providing some of the exact same services, however, the rates of the SMMC were substantially and structurally less in comparison to SEHOS. This forced SMMC into years of heavy financial deficits, making it impossible for the hospital to function sustainably, much less to expand and serve the growing population. The rates had not been adjusted since 2004, and maximum tariffs were established as per January 1, 2018. “If we want to have a healthier institution that is financially sustainable, we need to make sure that they are collecting a fair rate of compensation for their services.”
A price comparison for a lower-leg amputation available at both the SMMC and SEHOS:
2004 SMMC: ANG 959.50 vs. SEHOS: ANG 1750.00
2018 SMMC: 1360.50 vs. SEHOS: ANG 2123.16
The example above shows that the new price of SMMC, despite the adjustment is still below that of SEHOS from 2004. In addition, when comparing the new SMMC rate to that of SEHOS, the rates of the SMMC are 36% less. “This is dramatically less.”