Minister Lee: new medical services of SMMC directly improves access to local quality care
Minister of Public Health Emil Lee highlighted the positive reduction of medical referrals abroad as a result of the increasing new specialties available at the SMMC. The hospital services are consistently expanding and now offers both Urology and Neurology services. The Urology services has been available for several months now, however the clinic was officially opened on May 7th. For patients of Sint Maarten, the referrals abroad for this specialty has dropped over 90+%.
“The Health tripartite consisting of the SMMC, SZV and the Ministry of VSA has a very focused mission. This mission is to deliver quality and affordable health care, close to home. I can see day by day that we are getting closer to achieving this mission. The official opening of the Urology clinic is another milestone in that process. Management, specialists, staff and the board of SMMC are to be commended for their commitment and dedication to improving the range of services, quality and customer service.” – Minister Emil Lee, VSA
Patients in need of urology care would previously have to be referred abroad to the French side of the country or other destinations. The access to this and other new specialties has not only reduced the number of referrals abroad but is also projected to improve the quality of life ofour citizens. The availability of local specialist care improves access to early diagnoses and treatment of illnesses reducing the risk of becoming emergency care or long-term disabilities.
“I was informed that yesterday alone, the Neurology clinic saw 20 patients. Can you imagine that for this specialty alone, each of these patients would have had to be referred abroad for a consultation or treatment? With the services being available locally the money spent onairfare, hotels and per diems can be savedand spent on actual health care expenses. The expansion of medical specialties at the SMMC is significantly improving the access to quality care and the quality of life of patients. Without these services not only the costs of medical referrals abroad would continue to rise, but patients would continue to experience the hassle of travel abroad, time from work and family and in some cases long stays in foreign countries for treatment and rehabilitation.” – Minister Emil Lee commented during the Council of Ministers press briefing of Wednesday May 8th.
The recent expansion of medical care services has in part been made possible by advanced funding from the BES-islands. This agreement was put in place in order for the SMMC to be able to increase the range and quality of medical services. The increased rates of the SMMC for these services puts the SMMC in financial position to repay the loan, which is almost completed. The benefit of the agreement is not only for only Sint Maarten but also for the BES-islands. With the reduced need for medical referrals abroad for these new specialties, patients no longer have to go through a “hassle” to get the medical care they need. “From all perspectives accessing quality care is being improved, logistics, financial and family etc. The partnership proves to be a win-win, improving quality of care within the islands with the financial benefit of keeping the monies flowing within our own economies.”
The barrier to access urology and neurology care is now removed and this counts for the other new medical specialties available at the SMMC as well. Long-term medical cost are projected to be reduced due to early detection and treatment, now available locally. The investments in the local health care services, including the equipment will make significant changes in the financial picture of the health care system and quality of life of patients.