16 JANUARY 2016
~ Until new tariff structure in place ~
CAY HILL–Health Minister Emil Lee is looking into the possibilities of granting a temporary tariff increase to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in an effort to combat the institution’s financial straits and to more accurately compensate SMMC for services rendered.
The intention is to have the tariffs adjusted within the next two months. The temporary increase will remain in effect until a new tariff structure is in place.
Lee painted a grim picture of SMMC’s financial situation on Friday, noting that the hospital was basically surviving from “cheque-to-cheque” (see related story). He was at the time speaking at the continuation of a plenary session of Parliament on a draft health care ordinance, which was unanimously approved by parliament.
The temporary tariff increase will be a short-term solution. He said legislation would need to be reviewed for a permanent increase coupled with a review on Social and Health Care Insurance SZV premiums to ensure that SZV remains viable.
He said, however, that by increasing SMMC’s tariffs, government will have to look at how to ensure that the increased cost does not “create a problem” for SZV and ensure the cost does not end up on the backs of consumers. He said SZV has plans to further improve efficiency and improve compliance in terms of collecting monies it is owed. This, Lee said, will help ensure, the financial stability of SZV as this is a critical factor moving forward.
Lee said the “weakest link” in the county’s healthcare system is the hospital. Financially, SMMC is in a “precarious situation.”
“What would be the consequences if SMMC went bankrupt and had to close its doors or if there is a financial situation where they can’t pay their staff or buy medication? The ultimate problem is the quality of service would deteriorate.”
The losses at SMMC were blamed on the current outdated tariff structure. Lee said the rates were “too low,” therefore the cost of providing services is not adequately compensated. “The cost for each treatment is higher than the income. That results in a loss per activity.”
He said doubling the size of SMMC without addressing this problem will double the speed at which SMMC loses money.
Cooperation with the tripartite committee will continue and it is Lee’s vision that the role of the committee be extended to beyond the healing of SMMC and cover health care in general on the island.
Also important is the rebranding of SMMC and designation of the institution as the national hospital for St. Maarten.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten