Royal family questioned services provided to BES islands by SMMC. | SMN NEWS

~ Wants French and Dutch medical teams to forge cooperation to reduce costs for both sides.~

royals06022023PHILIPSBURG:--- The Royal family His Majesty King Willem Alexander and his wife Her Royal Highness Queen Maxima and his 19-year-old daughter Princess Amalia arrived in St. Maarten on Monday. The Royals are on an overseas countries tour, they previously visited Curacao and Aruba last week. The intention of the royal visit is to present Princess Catharina Amalia who is now 19 years old and next in line to ascend the throne. One of the sites the Royals visited was the St. Maarten Medical Center where the Royals and State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen showed keen interest in the services St. Maarten Medical Center provides to the BES islands namely Saba and Eustastia. Director of SMMC Dr. Felix Holiday gave the Royals a rundown of all that was done since the year 2018 (post hurricane Irma). According to the itemized list, Holiday said SMMC is the primary hospital for St. Maarten, Saba, and Eustatius. While SMMC was established in 1991 for a population of a mere 23, 000 people the SMMC serves an estimated 60,000 people currently. Their mission is to provide high-quality care close to home. Holiday said that SMMC has 19 medical specialties with 95 beds, of which 15 are in Auxiliary care. He said that currently there are 88 dialysis patients, 9 of whom are from Saba (3) and St. Eustatius (6). As for the New General Hospital that is currently under construction Dr. Holiday said the new facility will have 104 beds, with 31 dialysis positions. The building will be hurricane resistant that can sustain 200mph hurricane-force winds. Holiday explained that SMMC is facing some challenges since Hurricane Irma, COVID-19, and the War in Ukraine all impacted the reconstruction due to price increases. Holiday further informed the Royals that because of the high cost of airfares, the SMMC began sending specialists from St. Maarten to consult with patients on those islands. The Royal family showed keen interest in the medical services SMMC is providing to its patients, His Majesty asked Holiday what protocol SMMC follows when it comes to its medical staff most of whom are from different islands. Holiday explained that SMMC follows the BIG protocol and for non-Dutch medical staff, their qualification and training have to be equivalent to the BIG. Another question posed to the medical team that accompanied Holiday was how the patients in St. Maarten reacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. His Majesty said that during the first 8 weeks of the pandemic in The Netherlands, no one reported to the hospitals there for medical care, thus he wanted to know if it was the same here in St. Maarten. They explained that patients in St. Maarten reacted the same as they did in the Netherlands since most people were afraid to visit the hospitals for medical care. The Royals also asked what some of the diseases are that affect patients in St. Maarten, they said that St. Maarten has a high rate of Hypertension, Diabetes, and Prostate Cancer. One of the challenges the cardiologist said is the fact that patients are not in compliance with their treatment. She explained that lots of patients prefer to use herbal medications and while she recognizes that, she also believes that patients must also follow their medical protocols. SMMC explained that over the past years, there has been an increase in prostate patients. They said in the past men were not heeding the necessary tests and or treatments for prostate due to a “taboo” however, that situation has drastically improved. French and Dutch Cooperation Questions from His Majesty and Princess Catharina Amalia focus on if Saba and St. Eustatia have medical equipment for the specialists to use when they travel there to consult with patients. The cardiologist said they do have ultrasound machines in both islands that they use for ultra-sound and images. The Royal Family also questioned the working relationship between St. Maarten and Saint Martin. They wanted to know if French side patients use the services offered by SMMC and vice versa. Holiday said that the language barrier and the fact that the local government of Saint Martin does not have the authority to decide what happens with healthcare hinders cooperation. Holiday explained that because the French are socialist the French Hospitals prefer to send their patients to either Guadeloupe or Martinique and even though those are overseas islands the French claimed that it costs them less to evacuate their patients. Holiday however believes that it is a way for the French to keep their monies in their own pockets. State Secretary Alexandra van Hufflen said that the Minister of Interior and Overseas Affairs has expressed his wishes to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Netherlands in order for the two sides to work together. His Majesty instructed Van Huffelen to ensure that the matter of cooperation is further discussed with the French Minister of Overseas and Interior Affairs. He jokingly said that one of the areas that they need to work on is the French Language which Holiday explained poses a major problem. His Majesty raises concern about the fact that St. Maarten and Saint Martin do not produce anything and the length of time it would take for either side to receive spare parts in the event their MRI equipment broke down. The Royals also wanted to know what is bothering SMMC or the island that they have not yet heard of or read about. In response to the question, Holiday said the lengthy procedures with the World Bank pose real problems for the projects. However, Her Majesty Queen Maxima made it clear that the Dutch Government wanted to ensure that the trust fund monies gets into the right hands and that it is well spent. She said that despite the lengthy procedures the money is still available to St. Maarten for its projects. His Majesty also asked about the working relationship between St. Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao and if patients are evacuated to the islands that have the specialist that is needed. SMMC and its team explained that the three islands are also working closely and indeed depending on the islands the evacuation is done.

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