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St. Maarten delegation seeks support for soft loan to SMMC in The Hague

THURSDAY, 07 MARCH 2013

THE HAGUE–The St. Maarten delegation has asked The Netherlands for support to realise a soft loan of NAf. 30 million to expand and upgrade St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) during a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPOK on Wednesday.

Member of St. Maarten’s Parliament Lloyd Richardson (NA), who brought up the issue, said the soft loan was needed to finance a structural expansion of SMMC, which would enable the hospital to increase its services in the areas of neurology, orthopaedics, cardiology and urology.

“We kindly look to you to support this. We ask your cooperation and understanding,” said Richardson, who explained that the expansion and upgrading would not only benefit the people of St. Maarten, but also the residents of St. Eustatius and Saba. “The idea is to offer health care as close to home as possible. However you look at it, St. Maarten is the best place for specialist care for St. Eustatius and Saba,” he said.

Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Marijke Linthorst of the Labour Party PvdA said it was important to maintain the lucrative services of health care at the hospital. One of the ways to make SMMC profitable is through medical tourism, she said.

According to Linthorst, it was “unacceptable” that government should support a hospital that loses money while private clinics make money by offering lucrative medical services. “What is your government doing to make sure that the lucrative medical treatments flow back into the hospital?” she asked. “It is not right to ask The Netherlands for help with a loan while your government doesn’t do what it should,” she said.

Richardson responded that St. Maarten wasn’t asking for money, but merely for support by the Dutch to negotiate a low interest loan. He said that the St. Maarten Government was looking into the aspect of private clinics, but added that the SMMC project was urgent and the clock was ticking.

Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) said there was no way he would support a soft loan for SMMC. “My colleagues and I looked at each other when St. Maarten came with that request and we all had the same thought: we will not support that,” he told The Daily Herald after the meeting.

Other aspects discussed at Wednesday’s meeting on health care in the Dutch Caribbean included dividing specialist care between Curaçao and Aruba. The two countries want to specialise in the same medical area which is oncology, whereas the initial idea was that Aruba would specialise in oncology and Curaçao in cardiology. Member of Aruba’s Parliament Mervin Ras (AVP) explained that Curaçao was now focusing on oncology and radiology.

Independent Member of Aruba’s Parliament Booshi Wever pointed out that Aruba already had the equipment to offer specialist cardiology care, but the equipment was rusting at the closed Cardiology Centre in San Nicolas. He said Aruba should stop focusing at oncology and concentrate on cardiology – the market was too small for two neighbouring countries to have the same specialisation and this would not benefit the patients.

The Parliamentary delegations agreed to urge their governments to facilitate organising a health care conference in Aruba later this year to discuss this and other health care-related issues on the local and Kingdom levels. Governments, hospitals, health care insurance providers and patient organisations would be invited.

Member of the Second Chamber of the Democratic Party D66 Wassila Hachchi said cooperation in health care was also important in the interest of the people of the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Member of the Second Chamber Pierre Heijnen of the Labour Party PvdA remarked that it was essential to prepare well for this conference. “The success of a conference depends on a solid preparation. You have to be able to take concrete decisions,” he said. The delegations agreed to assign a quartermaster for the conference.

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