Published On: Fri, Dec 3rd, 2021

MP Romou questions the revocation of the licenses of two BIG-registered psychiatrists

~ Deeply concerned about the shortage of qualified psychiatrists on the island ~

PHILIPSBURG — The COVID 19 has resulted in devastating consequences to our country and our economy that was still recovering from Hurricane Irma.  Although this has a major negative effect on the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Sint Maarten, it also has an enormous negative impact on psychological and emotional wellbeing of the people as well. Studies have shown that the pandemic lead to a substantial increase in different mental health problems, psychiatric disorders and suicides in which Sint Maarten has been plagued with before and even more so since the pandemic. The lack of sufficient professional expertise is of concern as St. Maarten has also been struggling to get enough psychiatrists and other mental health care workers even before the pandemic started. The pandemic has shed light now more than ever, how important mental health is and has also magnified our shortages as a country when it comes to mental health care. We cannot continue to do our fellow brothers and sisters of this country a disservice when it comes to their mental health.

Disheartening situation

As a Member of Parliament, I have been paying keen attention behind the scenes to a particular situation that I consider disheartening. I have had numerous meetings with the Minister of health with regards to this situation and at one point, I thought that a resolve had been met, only to find out that initially MHF was not willing  to come to a resolve with the two psychiatrists concerned .

A little back ground information, in 2019, two BIG-registered psychiatrists came to settle in Sint Maarten with a mission to help the people of Sint Maarten with mental health problems and improve the quality of psychiatric care and the mental health care in general. They started working for the Mental Health Foundation but resigned due to internal matters at MHF. However, these two psychiatrists didn’t want to give up on their mission and saw the potential for improvement of individual and public psychiatric care on the island therefore they made the decision to open their own psychiatric institution.

The case of two psychiatrists

In the beginning of 2021, they submitted an application to the minister of VSA and filed for an institutional license and ministerial decrees were needed in order for them to continue to work as psychiatrists. At that time suicides and incidents with mentally challenged people were already rising quickly and the media frequently reported about it, unfortunately their application was denied. Prior to their application, their ministerial decrees were revoked because they were hired by Mental Health Foundation and were therefore only allowed to practice under the Mental Health Foundation. Different health care institutions, health care associations and patients wrote support letters for the two psychiatrists to the Minister to no avail. As a result, the psychiatrists started legal procedures against the Government of St. Maarten, in particular the Minister of VSA, in which the main procedure is still pending. They felt it necessary because they didn´t get an opportunity to explain their side of the story in addition to several false assumptions and accusations made. An example, of a false assumption was that the two psychiatrists would only treat clients who would yield the highest profits. In my opinion, if this was truly a concern then clauses could be put in the ministerial decree or policies would be an easy solution if this would be the case. I must note as a representative of the people , I must remain very active as a citizen in my dear St. Maarten land and I can vouch for these two psychiatrist as being primarily about the care for the people of St. Maarten because I have had visits, many calls and inbox messages from individuals thanking me for standing up on the floor of parliament to get some kind of recuse for these 2 physiatrists because of the good work they had done for their clients and were still doing without compensation.

MP Roumou questions process and decisions taken

I am a firm believer in processes and procedures and following the laws and policies of the land. However, when the parties involved in the advisory role to the Minister represent a conflict of interest in which they are unable to deliver unbiased opinions and advice, I must question the process and the decisions taken as a result of their advice.

With our current situation on the island and the evident lack of qualified psychiatrists – can we really continue with the current status quo with an overburdened Mental Health Foundation which lack enough psychiatrists to truly deliver quality care for all? It also leads me to question if such a decision is really and truly in the best interest of the people of St. Maarten? Is Mental Health considered a monopoly on the island? Is it truly MHF way or no way at all?

MP Roumou prepared to take action

I am prepared to take this matter further and bring it to the floor of Parliament because clearly our current system is not properly functioning, while lives have been lost and many more lives are at stake. Our people deserve proper psychiatric care on the island, and we cannot play politics nor favoritism where this is concerned. As a representative of the people of Sint Maarten, I will do my due diligence with all matters of this country and continue to speak up in the best interest of the people. I am making another plea to the Minister of Health to take a stand in the benefit of all people of St. Maarten, these psychiatrists deserve a chance to continue to work in the best interest of  the people in St. Maarten because every citizen is affected in one or the other by mental health situations on this island, do not allow mental health to continue to suffer at the hands of those who do not have the best interest of the people at heart.