PHILIPSBURG--Inspector General Dr. Earl Best says he is "worried" about the situation at St. Maarten Medical Center and believes that government and stakeholders should get together to address the issues facing the medical facility sooner rather than later.
SMMC General Director Kees Klarenbeek last week pointed to the dire financial straits affecting SMMC that potentially threaten the future health of the institution if not remedied soon. Klarenbeek had said SMMC was operating in the red, with its accounts some NAf. 5 million in deficit although a number of cost-cutting measures had been employed over the past year.
Best said the situation regarding specialist care and hospital care at SMMC was "very worrisome."
"We have to really look into this. We need to find as government together with the two major stakeholders – the hospital and SZV – the means to tackle the problems that we are confronting as soon as possible."
"What worries me is that nothing has changed," Best added, noting that of all the corrective measures that had been outlined as part of the intensified supervision SMMC was placed under in 2012, only between five to 10 per cent had been accomplished.
He said the medical facility usually alluded to its financial constraints when enquiries were made about implementing the other measures. "A lot still needs to be done. One of the primary things is getting specialists to work here and this goes hand-in-hand with having financial means," Best said.
He stressed that finding a solution for the issues at SMMC had to be a collaborative effort of stakeholders. "We are waiting for a new health minister and a decision from government on what they want to do. We can do a lot of things as inspectorate by law, ... but we need to work in collaboration with stakeholders, with government, SZV and the hospital."
Klarenbeek had told this newspaper that SMMC's 2012 financial report, completed recently, showed a deficit of NAf. 2.7 million. Klarenbeek said a deficit also was expected to be recorded in the 2013 and 2014 financial reports, of which the former is currently being finalised and the latter being worked on. He was unable to estimate the amount of the deficit expected without the reports being completed. The 2012 report has been sent to government.
According to Klarenbeek, the two main areas of concern when it comes to SMMC finances are the tariffs, which do not correspond with the actual rising medical cost, and the huge unpaid bills of patients who use the hospital services. The current tariffs are some 25 per cent below actual cost. However, this figure was questioned by former Health Minister and sitting Member of Parliament Cornelius de Weever.