Minister De Weever says St. Maarten Medical Center request for documentation ‘inadmissible’


PHILIPSBURG--"Inadmissible" was the word used by Health Minister Cornelius de Weever to describe a request from St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) Foundation via its attorney HBN Law to provide a number of documents to the medical facility.

SMMC made the request in a letter dated September 30. In his response, dated November 16, De Weever said the SMMC Board of Directors represented SMMC in legal matters. He said it should be unambiguous at all times who was legally authorised to represent SMMC and that representation must be compliant with any relevant legislation.

"By letter of August, 21, 2012, the Supervisory Council of SMMC was requested to provide a number of documents to enable this office [Minister's cabinet, ed.] to ascertain the relationship between the sole member of the Board of Directors and a contract with AnG Consulting (/Consultancy) NV to provide services that should be provided by an individual who is a member of the Board of Directors," De Weever said.

"The documents as requested have not been promptly delivered and are therefore still pending. With reference to aforementioned letter, the Minister has already expressed that a construction whereby a third party is used to provide services that an individual should be providing is not in compliance with the law," he added.

"The same member of the Board of Directors has recently received an instruction from the Inspectorate to either nullify the aforementioned contract or resign as a member of the Board of Directors. The instruction from the Inspectorate is part of an ongoing investigation regarding SMMC, whereby it's not unthinkable that the Inspectorate will continue to seek all and use all recourse at its disposal to ensure quality care.

"Notwithstanding the aforementioned, but more so in support of the forgone, the Minister also needs to initiate the necessary procedure (civil/legislative/criminal) to ensure that clarity and good governance is achieved in an as-short-as possible time."

De Weever continued: "Any information should only be delivered to an individual (natuurlijke persoon) as per the Articles of Incorporation of SMMC and (indirectly) based on the 'Landsverordening zorginstellingen' (rechtspositieregeling).

"It is at present inevitable to conclude that due to the existence of the contract with AnG, any information requested by SMMC will automatically end up in the hands of a third party (AnG), a (legal) entity whose mere existence is questionable.
"The request as submitted is deemed inadmissible, as this third party (AnG) is de facto requesting information on behalf of SMMC and that a third party is not recognized as the legal representative of SMMC."

The Minister said the request must be denied, based on Article 11, Section 1, subsections a, and b of the LOB,. He said the information requested endangered the unity of government by creating a rift between various entities and ministries should the request be honoured.

"The safety of the country will also be damaged, as patients will increasingly shy away from SMMC. This could possibly lead to the bankruptcy of the sole hospital in the country and have a damaging impact, as government will not be able guarantee quality health care," he added.

He said too that "based on Article 11, Section 2, subsection a of the LOB, the requested documents will not be provided, as it has not been established that SMMC has any prevailing interest in obtaining the said documents.

"The Minister considers this request as a gleaming example of poor management, not to speak of mismanagement. It is a blatant attempt to diffuse the matter of mismanagement at SMMC by the Board of Directors and the lack of supervision by the Supervisory Council of SMMC.

"To entertain the request as submitted will inevitably lead to frivolous remarks and attempts to discredit the Ministry, the Minister or the Inspectorate of Public Health and/or to delay aforementioned parties in taking the necessary steps to prevent lives from being put in danger.

"Any delays for whatever reason are not warranted, considering that this will unavoidably lead to further economic or financial loss for SMMC, government and SZV and therefore the quality of care for the citizens of St. Maarten.Furthermore, it is being determined whether or not certain matters should be brought to the attention of the Prosecutor.

"Lastly, any or all of the requested documents, if indeed available, are or should be part of the file the Inspectorate of Public Health holds on SMMC. Considering that the Inspectorate of Public Health is carrying out its legally attributed inspection task to, amongst other things, guarantee quality health care, none of the requested documents can be provided to SMMC at this time.

"Any interest SMMC may believe it has cannot at this point outweigh or stand in the way of the Inspectorate of Public Health or the Minister doing what is necessary to save lives."

The Minister said "remarkably" the request alluded to a peculiar reversal of roles, as if SMMC believed itself to be above the Inspectorate of Public Health and/or government, or at least equal partners to them.

In its request, SMMC requested that the Minister provide any instruction given to the Inspectorate of Public Health as it relates to instructions directly or indirectly to SMMC; the Memorandum of Understanding or agreement in whatever form between the government of St. Maarten and The American Clinic and/or Mr. S. Hess, D. Haight and T. Allen, and all landsbesluiten containing the decisions to appoint the current health inspectors, including the current Inspector General, among other requests.

HBN said that if one or more of these documents had not been issued, was missing and/or was incomplete, the Minister should indicate so in his response to its request.

HBN said SMMC had a right to and had pressing interest in receiving the documents in light of recent developments regarding the investigation by the Inspectorate and/or recent announcements regarding government's intention to allow other health care institutions to provide medical care in St. Maarten.