Minister refuses to provide the names to Parliament stating it is not good for business.
PHILIPSBURG:--- At the closing of the public meeting of parliament on Friday where Minister of Public Health Emil Lee returned to answer questions that were posed to him by Members of Parliament. MP Meyers stated that since the Minister did not answer his question where he asked for the names of the businesses that were tested positive for E-coli, he intends to make that information known to the public since he has the information and in his view the members of the public including tourist must know where there are health risks.
Minister of VSA Emil Lee in his response to the question from the get-go said that 15% of the businesses that were tested showed that they had E-coli in their water. He said that the Ministry has in place a committee that is busy working controlling the problems with E-coli and he has no intention to publish or reveal the names since that will hinder the committee’s process. When MP Meyers made his statement he also said that he has seen in the newspapers where residents and visitors were warned not to use certain beaches for whatever health risk and he also believes that if certain businesses such as hotels are tested positive for E-coli then there must be a publication to warn people. The Minister in his response said that the Ministry of Health cannot chlorinate the ocean but other measures can be taken for buildings. He said did say if the MP thinks making the names of the establishments public is good for business then he could go ahead and make the publication.
Other questions that were posed were those regarding the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) with their continued refusal to work with the inspectorate. Minister Lee was asked if any medical institution could refuse to cooperate with the Inspectorate. The Minister said that the Inspectorate can conduct announce or unannounced inspections at any healthcare institution such as SMMC and that institution must comply.
The Minister was asked who called for the audit and he told parliament that he called for an independent audit but since the Inspectorate and SMMC are having a difference of opinions the SMMC does not want to cooperate. He said the audit he called for has nothing to do with the five-year audit that is scheduled by the Inspectorate for SMMC and he has already given his approval and signed off for Inspectors from the Netherlands to come to St. Maarten and assist the Inspectorate on St. Maarten. The Minister went on to say that the Inspectorate and SMMC are having discussions which he believes is healthy discussions. He informed parliament that they should not confuse themselves with the baseline study and the planned audit of SMMC. Minister Lee told parliament he even offered to hire a mediator to better improve the working relationship between SMMC and the Inspectorate. As for the gag order, he issued to the Inspectorate, he told parliament that SMMC is of the opinion that the Inspectorate breached patient’s confidentiality when they responded to a LOB request and the information provided by the inspectorate and its letter was published online. This he said has damaged the trust between SMMC and the Inspectorate since SMMC considers the actions of SMMC as a breach of confidentiality and trust. Minister Lee said he asked the Inspectorate for their policy and the Inspectorate refused to hand over their internal guidelines but did allow a staff of his cabinet to review those guidelines under supervision. He said because of that the MB was issued because there are some grey areas with the policy of the Inspectorate --- an example he gave which stated that the Inspectorate has the right to give out information on their own initiative or when it is requested. He did tell parliament that he later received a copy of the internal policy but it was stamped confidential all over it which means he cannot even give it to parliament. He told parliament that the MB was withdrawn when the Inspectorate asked for a hearing (ed. Note: the Inspectorate filed an appeal and was heading to court when they received the gag order. It was after the Minister was served with court documents he withdrew the MB and granted the Inspectorate a hearing.) Asked about his working relations with the Inspectorate the Minister assured parliament there is no crisis but there are some grey areas in the workings of the Inspectorate that has to be worked on. What the Minister failed to tell parliament is that the Inspectorate filed a complaint against him with the Ombudsman and he agreed to have the Ombudsman mediate. He also did not tell parliament that in his view the Inspectorate is interfering and not him interfering with the job scope of the Inspectorate. (ed note. The Minister made this statement on April 26th at the Council of Minister's press briefing when SMN News asked him about the complaint filed against him. He further stated that he opted to take the mediation offered by the Ombudsman.)
As the Minister continue to explain the deadlock between SMMC and the Inspectorate he said that SMMC has taken the Inspectorate to court for the breaching patient’s confidentiality and since the case is in court he cannot discuss it further but would wait on the outcome of the court case. As per the memo issued to the staff of SMMC where they were instructed not to speak with the Inspectorate, the Minister clarified to parliament that he did not issue any memo but the memo was issued by the management of SMMC.
With regards to the Minister of Finance taking decisions with SZV to invest the AOV funds, Minister Lee told parliament that government had owed SZV and because of that it became a matter of finance which falls under the Minister of Finance Richard Gibson. He also told parliament that he was aware of the discussions that took place with the Minister of Finance and SZV.
Regarding the New General Hospital the Minister told parliament that all procedures were followed and that SZV could pay the settlement to VAMED since VAMED and filed and won a court case against SZV, he said even though SZV paid that settlement the budget for the New General Hospital to be constructed by INSO remains in line.
The Minister told Parliament in response to a question posed by MP Tamara Leonard regarding Dr. De Windt that so far he did not receive any report from the Inspectorate regarding Dr. De Windt clinic.
As for the nurses that were demoted from RN to LPN, the Minister said some of the nurses did not pass the examinations even though they wrote the examinations three times. He said while SMMC demoted the nurses to LPN their salaries remain the same. He further stated that those nurses will have the opportunity to do the examinations in July and if they pass it then they will regain their RN title.
The Minister told Parliament that SZV dispensed just over NAF20M in the Government Building and the New General Hospital and that whatever investment they make with the New General Hospital will benefit SZv since they will be saving monies by not having to sending a large number of patients abroad from treatment if they could be treated on St. Maarten.