Visited St. Lucia to see unused Hospital that was constructed by INSO.
PHILIPSBURG:— Minister of Health Emil Lee announced on Wednesday that he recently returned from St. Lucia where he went to see the hospital INSO constructed over there two years ago and is still not operational.
The team that accompanied the Minister to St. Lucia were representatives from SMMC, SZV, KPMG, Royal Haskonning, and INSO. Minister Lee said that the problem St. Lucia is facing is the lack of financing to train its staff to operate the equipment at the New Hospital. He said that St. Maarten will be cooperating with St. Lucia on issues where they could.
He said a hospital is just a building, a statement SMN News made several times to the Minister while imploring him to not interfere in matters that relates to SMMC and the Inspectorate since the main objective is to ensure the people of St. Maarten receives proper quality and safety of healthcare. It’s only after his visit to St. Lucia the Minister seems to realize that a new building is not a hospital.
Based on the statements made by the Minister of Health SMN News asked the Minister what he intends to do in order to bring SMMC up to par since SMMC lacks qualified specialists and instead of them working with the Inspectorate they are busy taking the Inspectorate to court because they do not want to comply with the law, refuse to follow the norms and to cooperate with the scheduled audit by the Inspectorate for 2017.
On Monday the SMMC took the Inspectorate to court citing they needed clarity on what the Inspectorate could do and what norms could be used. The Minister in response said that he tried to get parties to work out their problems instead of going to court but they chose the court instead of sitting around the table. He did say that going to court is a last resort, the Minister said that if parties had the country at heart they would have sat around the table and find a workable solution. However, the Minister said he supports the court case because at some point the court will give a ruling and parties could then move on since the objective is to improve the entire healthcare chain.
Based on the documents submitted to the Court of First Instance on Monday afternoon, the Inspectorate was taken to court by SMMC. In its defense the Inspectorate showed the court all the efforts they made to get SMMC to comply, one being sending the norms the Inspectorate uses, which are based on common Netherlands and international norms, however, the board and management of SMMC chose not to discuss but to drag the Inspectorate again to court. One of the most disturbing factors is that the Minister of Health Emil Lee chose to make agreements with SMMC and tried his best to bind the Inspectorate to his agreements while the Inspectorate is an independent enforcement entity within the Ministry of Public Health. One may wonder what all the court cases the SMMC initiated against the Inspectorate cost an institution in an already financially poor situation. Money which could be better spent on the education of staff, replacing a deficient generator and other highly needed investments.
The Minister went as far as issuing a gag order to the Inspectorate stating they should not communicate with third parties, this is based on SMMC constant complaint that they do not want reports or releases published in the media. The gag order almost landed the Minister in court. In the gag-order, the Minister accused the Inspectorate of breaching patient’s privacy to SMN News. Surprising indeed because the Minister himself chose to release a certain patient information when he was asked why he over ruled SZV for a particular patient. The Minister who boasts of integrity chose to compromise the privacy of the patient when SMN News informed the Minister that SMN News have information that his hotel was tested positive for E-coli and legionella.
Complaints at the Ombudsman.
SMN News asked the Minister how many complaints of interference and or integrity breaches were filed against him. The Minister said the Inspectorate filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against him and he just recently received a letter from the Ombudsman where her first question was if he is willing to settle the issues he has with the Inspectorate. Minister Lee said he is busy preparing his response to the Ombudsman and he intends to tell the Ombudsman that she could either mediate or hire a mediator in order for him and the Inspector General Dr. Earl Best to work out their differences. He said that he is not someone that likes fighting and that he tried to avoid court cases and confrontation with anyone, but in his view the Inspectorate is the one interfering with the audit he called for on February 8th 2017.
Again the Minister who prides himself as the person of integrity and transparency chose to lie to the media and confuse the community on Wednesday about the interference and his role as Minister supporting SMMC with their refusal to comply with the law and cooperate with the Inspectorate. The Minister did call for an independent audit which he announced on February 8th 2017 to be executed by the Inspectorate VSA and the Inspectorate from the Netherlands but ever since SMMC was informed that IVSA and IGZ will be conducting that audit which the SMMC initially publicly supported in a press release and an internal memo, the Minister began shifting gears by hiring a consultant paid for by the Ministry VSA to conduct a baseline study of the SMMC with regard to the implementation of a quality management system, it should be noted that the consultant has no knowledge of healthcare and he is a potential candidate SMMC will hire to assist in getting JCI accreditation. Besides that a baseline study is not comparable to an audit by the Inspectorate.
The Minister at no point blamed SMMC for their lack of compliance or for hiring under qualified specialists and or doctors even though a number of patients either loss their lives or severely affected due to malpractice. He however stated that a no point did he stop the Inspectorate from entering the SMMC to conduct their task.
He also did not admonish SMMC for labor abuse since they have nursing staff working very long hours, being demoted and under fear.
SMN News further asked the Minister if he got the report from the consultant he hired to conduct the baseline study. The Minister said he did not get that report as yet but he is expecting it very soon. He said he did get indications that SMMC management and its staff cooperated very well with the consultant/ potential employee of SMMC. The Minister said that the staff felt that the baseline study was more constructive and not destructive.
It should be noted that the consultant only met with SMMC board and management team, the Inspectorate and the Public Health department while the Minister told reporters and parliament that the consultant the Ministry is paying will conduct a baseline study of the entire healthcare chain.
Besides interference and constant “deal making” by the Minister of Health and Labor, the Minister does not have any knowledge on healthcare and he also did not familiarize himself with the laws on healthcare.
Clearly, on Wednesday when Minister Lee was questioned he sounded more like the spokesperson for SMMC instead as a Minister who has to assume responsibility for quality of care and ensure health care institutions comply with the law, it is evident that the Minister does not even support the Inspectorate that falls under him. He did say he is the Minister of Health who has to ensure that quality health care is provided to the people on St. Maarten but his actions proved otherwise.
Source: St. Martin News Network
Minister of Health blames Inspectorate of Health for interfering with the audit of SMMC, says he prefers amicable solution.