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Other financing options being explored for SMMC expansion

page3a218CAY HILL--Other options of financing the expansion of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) are being explored, Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said in a press release on Sunday.

These options are being explored in collaboration with the board and management of both the SMMC and Social and Health Insurance SZV which have a vested interest in a well functioning hospital.

De Weever said government has reserved NAf. 35 million on the capital budget of 2014 for the hospital expansion. With an expanded facility and the necessary specialists and human resources in place, the level of health care services being offered by SMMC will be taken to a new level, it was stated in the release.

SMMC, SZV and the Ministry of Public Health held discussions last week to further explore the participation of the SZV in making funding available for the hospital expansion. A two-prong approach is being pursued, as it is important that all parties are involved, to ensure that if an (in)direct relationship with government is not permissible, other options are available.

With the hospital expansion also comes a discussion on the tariffs that the medical institution is allowed to charge for services rendered. "This discussion and agreements are necessary in order for the SMMC to comply with its debtors when the expansion takes place, and keep SMMC on a healthy financial footing. Any expansion of the SMMC without agreements between the Ministry of Public Health under whose responsibility the setting of tariffs falls and the SZV as the largest health care provider, can jeopardize the expansion plans whether these are financed through a bond issued via Government or through external financing," it was stated in the release.

"In addition it was indicated by the SMMC and agreed upon in the meeting that the current expansion plan requires some updating, which the SMMC has already embarked on," De Weever was quoted as saying.

SMMC, he noted, has already received the blessing from the Ministry of Public Health in terms of the necessary licence for the expansion of its facilities, designating the SMMC as a central hospital and approving the tariffs, which included new services not previously offered by SMMC, such as cardiology.

"Under my guidance and with the involvement of all stakeholders, the new tariff structure study has been completed and I look forward to getting the ball rolling on the expansion of the SMMC and thank all who have so far given their selfless contribution to making the SMMC what it is today," said De Weever.

He applauded the efforts by the Minister of Public Housing and Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Maurice Lake to start discussions with SMMC management on the expansion to ensure "the timely processing of the permits that fall within the purview of VROMI."

"In my opinion a well equipped hospital on St. Maarten is in the interest of not one minister or one political party, but in the interest of every St. Maarten resident and every visitor that comes to the shores of our beautiful island," said de Weever.

This is, however, dependent on the structure that will be put in place between government and the SMMC. The structure that will be put in place must be able to withstand scrutiny in terms of complying with the norms as laid down in the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision and for St. Maarten being able to borrow on the capital market, it was stated in the release. "We can't have our hospital embroiled in any controversy regarding its much needed expansion. As Minister of Public Health, I am responsible for general healthcare on St. Maarten and I am totally committed to see the expansion of the SMMC through, in collaboration with the Minister of Finance [Martin Hassink – Ed.] whose role it is to make sure that the budgetary process is followed correctly and with of course the Central Bank under whose responsibility the issuance of a bond will have to take place to secure the financing."

He said the Democratic Party has ensured that this commitment to the SMMC expansion was part of every governing agreement signed.

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