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New registration system for medical professionals Jan. 1

PHILIPSBURG--A registration system for medical professionals operating in St. Maarten will go into effect as of January 1, 2015.

An ordinance has been approved by the Council of Ministers and will go into effect once it has gone through the necessary channels. All persons operating in the medical field will be required to register and will have to re-register every five years.

There are currently about 475 persons operating in the medical field in St. Maarten.

The Inspectorate of Public Health will be responsible for the registration of medical professionals and supervision of the ordinance, which is part of efforts by government to improve the quality of health care in the country. Health Minister Cornelius de Weever announced the registration system at a press conference on Tuesday.

Department of Public Health legal policy advisor Dana Kweekel told reporters that the registration would be linked to the individual's professional training, so if someone is registered as a dentist that person will not be allowed to offer services outside the area of dentistry.

Medical professionals will have to re-register every five years and show the inspectorate that they have worked during the years in which they have been registered and have followed "professional continuance education."

Medical professionals registered also will be required to deliver "appropriate care" and should have a mandatory complaints procedure in place.

Persons will not be allowed to act as medical professionals in St. Maarten if they fail to register or to inform the Inspectorate of Public Health that they are practising medicine or acting as medical professionals here. Kweekel said the term "medical professional" covered a broad scope of professions operating in the industry.

The Inspectorate will register only medical professionals who are qualified, competent and capable to act as medical professionals, Kweekel said.

There is also a notification requirement for persons who have not completed an approved or accredited education. This requirement is aimed at obtaining an overview of what Kweekel referred to as the "alternative circuit" of practitioners, such as chiropractors, etc.

The registration of medical professionals is intended to increase the quality of health care professionals operating in the country. Kweekel said the intention was also to increase public access to information and the register of medical professionals would be accessible to the public.

De Weever said the progress made with this and public health ordinances showed that the department had been very busy. He said many overnight hours had been spent working on these ordinances. He thanked the team at the Department of Public Health for their work.

Pastor Smith urges incoming coalition govt, ‘make it work’

page1b109~ Governing programme finalised ~

CAY HILL--The incoming coalition partners have completed the governing programme and will be presenting it to formateur William Marlin today, Wednesday. Marlin is expected to report to Governor Eugene Holiday on the formation of the new government on the deadline today.

St. Maarten United Ministerial Foundation (SMUMF) President Pastor Wycliffe Smith, who met with the coalition leaders and their representatives as they finalised the document at Bearing Point yesterday, urged the coalition to "make it work."

He said a coalition of three was much more challenging than a coalition of two, noting that in this case the margin was thin as there was just a one-seat majority. "Therefore it behooves the coalition partners to bend over backward to make it work. There are people who are waiting and expecting for this coalition to fail. Make it work; only you can make it work," Smith said.

"People waiting for Marlin, Wescot-Williams and Richardson to be at odds with each other and disagree publicly. Only you can make it work. Therefore, agree to disagree agreeably. You won't always see eye-to-eye, but agree to disagree agreeably."

He said people were expecting in-fighting amongst party members, but the coalition partners should "make it work. ... Be a team member, a team player, a team supporter."

The pastor said the people of St. Maarten were "tired" of "government changes, ship-jumping and media wars. ... People are hoping that the coming government and parliament will be examples of good governance, transparent governance and expedient governance.

"The country St Maarten is longing for righteous leaders; i.e., those who will do what is right not according to their own standard, but according to the moral standards of the Good Book.

"We don't want people to be always groaning, moaning and complaining in the next four governing years. Being a nation founded on Christian principles, St. Maarten deserves a parliament and a government that will govern with honesty, integrity and transparency, where the people come first and self-enrichment is denied," he said.

Smith said prayers had been held during the campaign and on Election Day for "God's will be done," for peaceful elections and for St. Maarten to get the government it needs.

He said "God has allowed" a coalition government to form, as no party had won a majority at the polls. He said the National Alliance, Democratic Party and United St. Maarten (US) Party had decided to come together to work on behalf of the people and he offered prayers for the three parties to work together and to receive wisdom, guidance and direction.

Smith's prayers were offered with the backing of SMUMF, the Christian Council of Churches and the Seventh-Day Adventist Churches. He said the various church leaders would continue to pray for the coalition government "because this is what the word of God commands us: to pray for those in authority."

Food outlets inspected, 10 closed for violations

PHILIPSBURG--Ten food establishments were warned and closed for food safety violations in August.

The 10 establishments, which have since corrected the violations and have reopened, were amongst 86 food establishments inspected by the Inspectorate of Public Health's Department of Food Safety last month. The establishments inspected included restaurants, supermarkets and other places that handle food.

The owners of the establishments were issued warning letters, and were also informed that in case of a lack of appropriate measures to correct the violations or a recurrence of the violations, they will be prosecuted in full force by the law, Inspector General Earl Best said in a press release on Monday.

The most common violation encountered during the inspections was pest infestation (roaches and rodents) in several kitchens. The Inspectorate said pest infestation is considered "a serious violation." Insects and rodents carry disease on their bodies, as well as excrete and defecate on food. "In many restaurants and supermarkets, roaches were found running around on unprepared food and also on ready-to-eat food. Rats and mice were no exceptions. Rat droppings and live rats were seen. A pest control programme must be in place," the Inspectorate said.

Another violation was the disorganisation of food preparation and storage areas. According to the Inspectorate, in many of the establishments, the food handlers were not separating cleaning material from prepared food and unprepared food. "Once prepared food is contaminated by cleaning material, this will render the food unfit for consumption. Consequently, the consumer can become sick. A separation between the dirty and clean area is necessary," the release said.

Some establishments also did not have any verifiable cleaning programme and walls and floors were unhygienic and inadequately maintained. "The lack of a cleaning programme is very common. Many licence holders do not see the necessity to clean and disinfect their establishment, cooking equipment, refrigerators and freezers on a regular basis. In addition, surfaces like cutting tables, walls, ceilings and floors, if not constantly cleaned, will accumulate grease and dirt, which are ideal places for bacterial growth. Constant cleaning is the key to keep your place hygienic."

The Inspectorate also said that some of the establishments have no verifiable temperature control system. The Inspectorate said temperature control violations are among the most common critical item violation marked on food establishment inspections. "This happens because so many foods are subject to proper temperature control. Careful management and monitoring of temperatures of refrigerators and freezers in the food establishments can help to prevent food-borne illness."

Food handlers were also not in possession of a food safety certificate as required by law. "The law mandates that all persons that prepare, handle and serve food, master the basic principle of handling food in a hygienic manner. This law is in place to guarantee that the food handler knows how to prepare and keep food, as much as possible, free from contamination."

Food and food products were also not labelled and were improperly stored. "When food products are not [properly – Ed.] labelled and stored under inadequate temperature conditions, not even the food handler that had stored the product will be able to identify the product at a later stage. This means that the item has become a risk item for consumption."

Inspectors also encountered improper food handling procedures as there was no clear separation between raw and cooked foods. "Ready-to-eat food is handled in very unsafe manners. In many cases, raw food that contains dangerous microbes is mixed with ready-to-eat food."

The Inspectorate's Food Safety Division is responsible for ensuring that foods prepared and sold in St. Maarten are fit and wholesome for human consumption, the release said. Food for consumption that is not prepared under hygienic conditions can cause severe gastrointestinal complaints such as weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe allergic reactions.

The Division of Food Safety says it has adopted a strategy to start informing the public of the latest inspection findings as far as food safety is concerned to make people more aware about preparing safe food.

The Inspectorate said food safety inspectors will continue to be "very vigilant" during their inspections. It encourages the public to call the Inspectorate at tel. 542-3580 or 542-2079 to report situations that appear to be unhygienic and/or when experiencing complaints. One's name and credentials are not relevant. "We will make sure that the public consumes safe food, and doesn't pay to get sick," the Inspectorate said.

‘Vote-buying undermines St. Maarten’s democracy’

THE HAGUE--The reported trading of votes in St. Maarten is worrisome and has an undermining effect on the country's democracy.

That is what Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated on Monday in response to written questions submitted by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP).

Van Raak sought clarity on August 27, two days prior to the elections, after reading in the local media that the Court of First Instance had declared admissible the Prosecutor's Office's cases against five persons involved in the selling and buying of votes on behalf of the United People's (UP) party in the September 2010 election.

Van Raak had asked the minister's opinion on the court's decision and the accusation of the judge that the Prosecutor's Office was guilty of "class justice" by only prosecuting the five suspects in question, and to leave the management of UP in peace despite evidence that pointed in their direction. "It is not up to the minister of home affairs and kingdom relations to provide a comment on the court's decisions and rulings," Plasterk stated in his response.

The minister also didn't want to go into reports that UP party leader Theo Heyliger had donated US $3 million to his party for the 2010 elections and that people were standing in line in front of the UP headquarters to receive money for their vote. "I am not in the position to judge on the truthfulness of these allegations," he stated.

Plasterk gave a more elaborate answer on Van Raak's question whether he shared his concerns that Heyliger might be re-elected during the August 29 elections without a proper election fraud investigation having taken place.

"The judge has determined that a number of persons were guilty of trading votes. The Charter of the Kingdom states that every country carries the responsibility to realise fundamental human rights and freedoms, the legal security and proper governance. St. Maarten is a constitutional state and that sense the trading of votes is worrisome and undermining for the democratic character of the country," he stated.

More than 100 bags of trash collected in ICC clean-up

page3a108MARIGOT--The 2014 International Coastal Clean-Up (ICC) Day was another great success on Sunday, with 247 enthusiastic nature-minded volunteers collecting 107 bags of trash weighing 6,158lbs, according to results released by St. Maarten Pride Foundation.

Once again, the army of volunteers targeted La Belle Creole Beach in Baie Nettle.

The local leg of the ICC is organised and coordinated by Dutch-side environmental foundation St. Maarten Pride Foundation and French-side hiking group SXM TRAILS.

"Volunteers consisted of high school students, social groups and business employees who showed true dedication in helping to solve our marine environment for this annual event spearheaded by the Ocean Conservancy," noted Pride Foundation in a release. "Volunteers from several businesses on the island were in full force wearing their company's T-shirts to show their team spirit.

"Represented were Kooyman employees, Sea Side Nature Park, Discovery Farms, SXM Trails hiking club, Rotaract Clubs from both sides of the island, Lions Club, Be The Change Foundation, Learning Unlimited school teachers and Tzu Chi foundation.

"For the three-hour beach clean-up exercise, volunteers combed the secluded beach, which has a difficult access due to the bushy vegetation on the coastline. Volunteers still managed to collect 107 bags of trash weighing 6,158 pounds. This amount does not include the large debris found such as bed mattresses, beach chairs, a small refrigerator and lots of plastic buckets.

"Since this beach is not used for recreation, it is very clearly determined that this sort of trash found is washed up from ocean currents. A very large amount of trash from the maritime industry was found, buoys, large ropes and nets. However, the largest item found was the ubiquitous plastic bottle in all shapes and sizes. It is difficult to determine if this sort of trash was dumped from boats, maritime industry or dumping activities on land."

The ICC offers volunteers the opportunity to play scientist for a day by recording every piece of trash collected. This is added on a special data card and total results will be sent in the coming weeks to Ocean Conservancy, which notes that volunteers have collected data since 1986 with numbers used to raise awareness, identify hotspots for debris or unusual trash events, and determine policy solutions.

The Pride Foundation thanks sponsors who have been donating to this event annually. They are Zee Best Bakery, Cake House Bakery, Heavenly Water, Kooyman, Prime Distributors and Ace Mega Center.

"We also thank the French-side medical team and the Collectivité for their assistance with a tent setup and tables, as well as removal of the trash bags."

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