Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital. (Robert Luckock photo)
MARIGOT–Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital physician L.J. and an associate A.B. are to appear in court in St. Martin on October 24, suspected of misappropriation of funds in connection with Association Observatoire de la Santé (Health Observatory OBS), the director of which is B., while J. is also summoned on another charge of illegal interest.
J. was briefly taken into custody by Gendarmes for questioning during a search of Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital in August 2018.
Correcting erroneous information published on social networks, the French Prosecutor’s Office in a communiqué at the time stated the searches had been done “in the context of a preliminary investigation aimed at verifying relations existing between a doctor who is a member of the hospital’s institutional medical commission and structures governed by foreign law, as well as a subsidised association, under the possibility of a criminal procedure, in particular, of taking illegal interest.”
J. is suspected of taking “illegal interest” as a doctor, head of a department and at the time, member of an internal surveillance commission at the hospital, for allegedly not disclosing to the French hospital his role as a shareholder of Health Destination and receiving money on behalf of the hospital.
Health Destination was a Dutch-side company created by Liliane Page, of which J. was a shareholder and joint manager. The company was established to sell services of the Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital to Dutch-side or foreign patients.
The purpose of Health Destination was to make medical appointments with French doctors, translate medical records and decisions, and to receive the monies for these services, which were then passed on to the French hospital.
J. is suspected of misappropriating European funds (“abus de confiance”) received by OBS, which he set up and presided over as President.
Part of the function of OBS was to carry out public surveys and health studies of the population on both sides of the island by initially interviewing 2,000 residents on each side, and to establish a mapping of chronic diseases to put in place adapted treatments and patient care protocols. Its mission was also to collect, analyse and coordinate health, social and epidemiological data.
The project was a joint initiative of the Collectivité of St. Martin, the government of Dutch St. Maarten and Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital, and financed by European INTERREG IV Caribbean funds.
Part of the INTERREG funding, 200,000 euros advanced by the Collectivité, was not reimbursed to the Collectivité as OBS could not prove that money had been spent on public health studies. The Collectivité therefore received back only 300,000 euros instead of 500,000.
Following an alleged falling out between Page and J., money for hospital services continued to be received by OBS, of which J. was President, along with its Director B.
Dutch-side health insurer SZV paid considerable sums of money to Health Destination (and later OBS) on behalf of its patients, believing the money was being forwarded to the French hospital, but cut its ties with OBS after the hospital began charging SZV for unpaid invoices amounting to a six-figure sum. The remaining debts to the hospital were subsequently paid off by SZV.
The Health Observatory of St. Martin was launched on August 22, 2014, with a signed agreement to embark on a joint public health study to assess the health situation amongst the population of both sides of the island.
An amount of 578,777 euros had been budgeted and pre-financed by the Collectivité for the Health Observatory studies with an additional 200,000 euros released for studies in 2015.
At the time the project was estimated to cost 1,184,095 euros, but then Vice-President of the Collectivité for Social Affairs, Ramona Connor clarified that INTERREG only reimburses a certain percentage of what is spent on the project. However, with expenses, the overall cost could come close to a million euros. Dutch St. Maarten was to cover 25 per cent of the cost and the French side 75 per cent.