‘Facility agreement’ inked for new hospital

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~ SMMC to repay loans ~

CAY HILL–A “facility agreement” amongst several parties committing to provide financing loans to fund the construction of a new general hospital for St. Maarten was signed between St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) and the financing partners on Friday.

The project is expected to cost NAf. 145 million. According to the agreement, Social and Health Insurances SZV will provide NAf. 39 million of this cost, General Pension Fund Administrator APS will provide NAf. 32 million, Curacao’s public pension fund APC will provide NAf. 25 million; Vidanova Pension Fund NAf. 15 million, Fatum Life/Guardian Group NAf. 9 million; Giro Bank NAf. 8.5 million; Vidanova bank and Isla Refinery Pension Fund will each provide NAf. 7.5 million and Fatum will provide NAf. 1.5 million. This amounts to NAf. 145 million.

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The lenders are expected to make a 6 per cent return on their investment. SMMC will have to repay the loans. A list of conditions need to be met and several things have to be put in place such as building permits, before the financial closing can take place. It is estimated that construction will start in five months.

Representatives from the Curacao partners signed the facility agreement, while they were still in Curaçao, while St. Maarten officials signed the documents here in St. Maarten at SMMC on Friday.

In remarks at the ceremony, SMMC General Director Kees Klarenbeek called the signing an achievement. “The historical signing of this agreement underscores the message of the SMMC to keep first class health and medical care close to home and therefore eliminating the need to travel abroad for the community of St. Maarten and surrounding islands. This will reduce discomfort for patients and family and keep the healthcare system financially affordable,” Klarenbeek said after the signing.

He said currently, the existing hospital building can no longer meet the growing demands of modern healthcare. “Despite our best efforts to provide quality care, the building continues to deteriorate and has proven to be far too costly to maintain in its present state. The building was also further crippled by hurricane Irma, which increases the need for a new hospital further,” he said.

“A new hospital is a huge step forward for the country and signing this agreement with commitment for financing is a stepping stone to establish greater healthcare and medical service in St. Maarten.”

He said everyone is grateful to have reached this point. “The plans for a new hospital for St. Maarten were first visualised several years ago. Along the way we have had several setbacks that have motivated everyone to continue to move forward towards realising the ultimate goal: expanding on the quality of healthcare available on St. Maarten.” He said parties must continue to be diligent and motivated in the steps to follow.

SZV Director Glen Carty said while he is a positive person, he never thought this day would come. He described the signing as “a special day” for St. Maarten, but a fantastic day for SZV.

Carty said SZV spends NAf. 40 million per annum to send patients abroad, who are unable to be treated in St. Maarten. He said the insurance service provider has become like a travel agency and has to handle things such as making medical appointments, booking hotels and flights and is sometimes faced with issues such as patients not having the correct passports and visas for certain destinations.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” Carty said, adding that if anything on the schedule is “messed up,” SZV is blamed. For Carty, just the thought of having SZV clients treated at home in St. Maarten, even if it brings down SZV’s cost by 50 per cent, is welcoming. “This is a dream come through for SZV,” he said.

Health Minister Emil Lee said Friday was an extremely important milestone that is worth celebrating. He assured that the event is not a political ploy given the snap parliamentary elections set for Monday coming. He said with the commitment now made for financing, the only ones who can stop the new hospital from being constructed is St. Maarten itself.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/74004-facility-agreement-inked-for-new-hospital

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