MPs zoom in on gag order placed on Inspectorate

PHILIPSBURG–Why Minister of Public Health Emil Lee would place a gag order on the Inspectorate of Health, a body that should function independently for the Ministry, was a cause for concern and inquiry from Members of Parliament in Thursday’s urgent plenary session of Parliament dealing with development of the new hospital, the current state of affairs at St. Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) and heath care in general.

MPs will have to wait another two weeks before getting any answers from the Minister. The meeting was stalled due to the loss of quorum close to the end. The session was adjourned by Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams to give Lee some time to gather some information to give to the MPs, but the bulk of the answers was to come later. This apparently did not sit well with several MPs, and they were not present for the session to resume for Lee to speak.

The gag order is said to have been placed after patient and other information appeared on a blog site. The information pertaining to an ongoing investigation.

MP Franklin Meyers (United People’s party) said the trail of events is worrisome, because the gag order prevented the Inspectorate from issuing a warning about contaminated corned beef from Brazil. He noted that it was days after the meat scandal in the South American country had dominated the world stage that a release telling residents to take caution was issued by the Ministry.

MP Claret Connor queried whether the gag order was lifted, and if yes, when this was done.

   MP Tamara Leonard asked if an audit would be carried out on all general practitioners and other health providers to ensure a high quality of care.

The procedure for patient referrals for treatment abroad was questioned by MPs George Pantophlet (National Alliance) and Perry Geerlings (Democratic Party).

MP Rodolphe Samuel voiced concerns about undocumented persons having SZV covering and asked Lee to explain the situation.  

Pending audits at SMMC and for other institutions in health care were further questioned after Lee delivered answers on the topic at the resumption of the meeting. He pointed out that there were two separate audits, costing the Ministry NAf. 31,000 and 20,000 euros. The first audit is to assess SMMC based on the Joint Commission International (JCI) standards for patient care and safety. The second will look at other entities in health care.

MPs also questioned why the Inspectorate was shut out of conducting the audit at SMMC, when part of its function is to police the health care institution.

On the leadership of the Social and Health Insurance SZV, Lee told MPs that the term of the current director Glen Carty will not expire in June, rather he will continue in the post until a new director is found. An adjunct director is needed, he added, and suggested that this post should be filled first and the new hire should be groomed to take up the director’s position.

The cistern water at some 15 per cent of hotel properties has tested positive for E. Coli, according to Lee, who insisted that at no time this posed a health risk. A team has been put in place to work on preventative methods, and to work with the hospitality industry on safety standards, he said.

Source: The Daily Herald