Minister Lee: Resolving the issues surrounding mental health care a priority for Sint Maarten

Minister Lee: Resolving the issues surrounding mental health care a priority for Sint Maarten

Minister of Public Health Emil Lee attended a meeting with the interim-Director and Board members of the Mental Health Foundation on Tuesday May 28. In a “very open, candid, and constructive” setting, a number of structural issues were addressed, including finances, the process of permitting specialists, the worldwide shortage of psychiatrists and the challenges this presents in sourcing a qualified psychiatrist to serve Sint Maarten.

During the Council of Minister’s press briefing of Wednesday May 29, Minister Lee elaborated on the main outcomes of the meeting. As it pertains to the finances of the MHF,  the SZV and MHF recently entered into a two-year budget agreement that encompasses the current outstandings. This agreement is a way forward in addressing the financial issues of the MHF.

All parties agreed that the most structural way to tackle the mental health and psychosocial care issues faced on Sint Maarten is to establish a tripartite committee. The committee would be comprised of health practitioners & administrators in the mental health sector, insurance providers and members of the Ministries of Health and Justice. The committee would handle matters such as developing an overall psychosocial plan which would encompass updates to the National Mental Health plan, developing an overall strategic framework, reviewing legislation relating to mental health, and reviewingthe possibility for securing a new building to house the MHF and all the requirements to realize this.

“The Health tripartite committee structure has worked extremely well. This committee consists of the SMMC, VSA and SZV. The committee was established to guide the development of the new hospital and the cooperation between the entities in terms how we are moving forward with the development of our health care sector. I think a similar structure focused on mental health would also be beneficial.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA 

To address the central complaint amongst institutions surrounding the permitting of medical specialists, a committee will also be formed that will focus on reviewing the process for the approvals of medical specialists. Minister Lee stressed that the Ministry is obligated to follow the law and maintain the quality standards that have been established. However, it is known that Government processes can sometimes become bureaucratic, thus the intention is to look towards streamlining these processes. A legislative writer will be part of this committee and the objective is to come with short, medium and long term solutions to simplify the process and meet the needs of Sint Maarten.

The third point of agreement established during the meeting was the commitment to improve communication between the different entities. Minister Lee commented that the meeting outcomes tie in perfectly with the agreements made at the recently held Kingdom Health Conference in Bonaire. Mental health legislation was one of the topics that Sint Maarten set as a priority. With legislative assistance of the Netherlands, a template from Curacao and the vision of this Committee, the final product will be something that everyone can be happy with


Caption for MHF picture


From left: Jaap van Duinkerken, Legal Advisor, Cabinet VSA; Eileen Healy, Interim-Director, Mental Health Foundation (MHF);Dr. Sonia Swanston-Meade, Board Member MHF; Emil Lee, Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labour (VSA); Dr. Felix Holiday, President of Board MHF; Erika van der Horst, Board Member MHF; Joanne Dekker, Legal Advisor, Department of Public Health (VSA); Selby Philip, Senior Policy Advisor, Cabinet VSA.

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