SMMC-chairman George Scot expresses sorrow, calls for patient transport policy on St. Maarten

TUESDAY, 08 MAY 2012

CAY HILL--St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) Board of Directors Chairman Dr. George Scot has expressed sorrow over the tragic medivac accident that claimed the lives of four people over the weekend.

Scot explained that the patient, a cruise ship passenger, had been admitted to the ICU last week Thursday with a serious cardiac condition. One of the rotating cardiologists from Holland, who provides cardiological care at SMMC two weeks per month, was present at that moment to attend to the patient.

"On Friday the patient's condition worsened. At that time there was a medical indication for the patient to be referred to a specialised cardiological centre. In order to have the patient evacuated, the patient's insurance company needs to give approval for transport by air ambulance to the receiving hospital, in this case located in Martinique," Scot explained.

"After the medical indication has been confirmed by specialists and it has been established that the required medical care can be provided by that institute, the receiving hospital will accept the patient. Friday afternoon we received clearance from all parties concerned and the patient left SMMC on Friday evening with a special medical team of the hospital in Martinique by ambulance to Princess Juliana International Airport."

Scot said SMMC had not been informed that the air ambulance at Princess Juliana Airport had technical difficulties or that the patient had been transported from Princess Juliana International Airport to Grand Case Airport.

"If the patient's condition exceeds the treatment options at SMMC, it is to the medical judgment of the treating physician to refer a patient to a different hospital in order to receive proper care. The responsibility of the SMMC and the specialists at SMMC is to provide the necessary medical information timely to the insurance company of the patient and to arrange the ambulance to the airport," Scot said.

"The insurance company of the patient is responsible for arranging the transport to the receiving hospital. In most cases the insurance companies have their own contract with the air ambulance services and hospitals in the region."

Scot said it was important that a full investigation be carried out on how the tragic accident could have occurred. Even without the results of that investigation, he continued, "it would be wise that a policy is made for air transportation of patients of both the Dutch and French side and those strict guidelines for air ambulance services are agreed upon. The size of the population of St. Maarten/St. Martin together, and that of Saba and St. Eustatius plus the limited medical services to these islands, justifies such a policy.

"Staff, specialists and management of SMMC truly regret the tragic accident and we wish the family members, colleagues and friends of the deceased much strength in dealing with their unexpected tragic loss."