Minister of VSA Omar Ottley says members of Parliament are apart of the legislative branch, who have the authority to amend laws that they may consider negatively affecting the country’s progress. Member of Parliament MP Angelique Romou should change the National Ordinance on Healthcare Institutions (landsverordening zorginstellingen) if she wants to help the two Mental Healthcare Psychiatrists who have taken Government to Court. The Minister said the main challenge is that the existing Ordinance does not permit establishing a Psychiatric practice without a collaboration agreement with the Mental Healthcare Foundation.
"It is disheartening when persons, especially those who have access to the facts, peddle half-truths to the public. Despite the challenges with the law, I have been trying to find ways and means of helping the Psychiatrists."
The Minister referred to comments made in the local media by MP Romou regarding the revocation of a Ministerial Decree that previously granted two Psychiatrists Drs. Kelbrick and Nijdam the right to practice on St. Maarten. The Minister first wanted to clarify that their respective Ministerial decisions (MB’s) were
granted solely on the premises of working for the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
" I requested that an amendment be made to the advice, which clearly stated that a new MB can be granted to both professionals once a Service Level Agreement (SLA) can be provided with any existing health care institution on the island." stated Minister Ottley. The Psychiatrists initially arrived in St. Maarten to work with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). That relationship ended prematurely, and since then, the two Psychiatrists have been trying to establish their practice.
"The impression that the Minister of VSA is preventing the establishment of these specialists is false. These two Psychiatrists wish to open their mental health practice, but the Ministry of VSA has received negative advice from both the Department of Public Health and the Council of Public Health. Despite this, I have thrown out an olive branch to find ways to keep them working because it is the right thing to do."
Minister Ottley said he could not intervene in an ongoing court case as the two Psychiatrists have again taken Government to Court. They first took Government to Court to establish themselves. The Government won the first summary proceedings.
"With the increased number of Mental Health cases on the island, I will continue to provide the support necessary to foster the possibility of a collaboration between both Psychiatrists and the Mental Health Foundation and to find other ways of strengthening our mental healthcare services."
MP Romou alluded to politicking in a news article published on a local website. Minister Ottley reiterated his position stating that it is within the prevue of Parliament to enact new laws and amend them as they see fit. "Strengthening Mental Health has always been one of my main goals and remain a top priority within the Ministry of VSA.
"I have brought both the Psychiatrists and the Mental Health Foundation together to try to find common ground even though they lost the summary proceedings in Court. The goal is to find a way forward so the people of St. Maarten can continue to benefit from their services," said Minister Ottley in a press release issued Wednesday.
Both Drs Kelbrick and Nijdam provided a draft copy of their collaboration request during that meeting. The MHF agreed to peruse the document, present any changes, or suggest any additional requirements within two weeks. According to Minister Ottley, both doctors declined to wait the two weeks asked by MHF to finalize the collaboration and said they would instead take their chances in Court. For the second time, the Court rendered its decision in favor of the Government, using as its central point the fact that there is no collaboration agreement between the two Psychiatrists and MHF as required by the National Ordinance.
Minister Ottley remains convinced that fostering collaboration between the Psychiatrists and the MHF would have been the most practical way to get the medical professionals to provide the much-needed support to the island. However, the matter is once again in the hands of the Court.