Published On: Mon, Jun 22nd, 2020

Protest action at SMMC was loud and clear

Peaceful march unions 2020062202 JH

CAY HILL — With a raspy, hoarse voice, WIHCUA leader, Brunilda Illidge, told StMaartenNews.com tonight that the support of the SMMC workers today was overwhelming. She did not expect that. Illidge was afraid that due to the ongoing intimidation and pressure, people would not come out. But with over a hundred people turning out, Illidge said, “the staff of the St. Maarten Medical Center went full force today.”

Illidge was referring to the turnout of union members of WIHCUA at the manifestation that Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions held at the WIFOL building on the Longwall Road. The unified unions rallied their members for an approved peaceful march through Philipsburg. The workers marched through Front Street signing and chanting. They voiced and expressed their feelings about the issues plaguing the workers and their unions. “The turnout of the young people was massive,” said Illidge. “It made me feel proud of my hospital people.”

The march that impressed many people with the peaceful nature of the marchers ended at the Little League Ballpark Stadium. The leaders of the various spoke to the crowd. “I spoke til my teeth almost fall out,” said Illidge, who wears dentures. “I was so passionate about what all I had to say.”

SMMC Workers Marching - CFO got to Go - 20200622

From the Little League Ballpark, the hospital workers drove to Cay Hill, parked their vehicles at the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex, and walked to the medical center. Coincidentally, the sports complex is named after the uncle of the long-time activist and union leader. Illidge made sure that the protesting staff put on face masks and observe the social distancing guidelines before allowing them to enter the courtyard area of the medical center.

Other workers at the medical center joined the protesters, and Illidge said she told them they were free to express themselves as long they did not get physical or let things get out of hand. The protesters marched upstairs to the office areas and paraded around the hallways outside the offices carrying their signs and placards, chanting and calling for the CFO to come out: “Marco Polo has to go!”

At one point, protesters banged on a door. The door led to the office of SMMC’s Chief Financial Officer, Marco Meulenman. “But he wouldn’t come out,” said Illidge. According to reports, Meulenman had taken the liberty of putting himself over the HR and the IT departments when the head of these departments had resigned. The workers considered it to be a conflict of interest with the CFO over the HR as well as the IT department.

According to Illidge, Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday did come out eventually and spoke with her. Observers noted that Dr. Holiday was visibly upset and not happy with the situation. Illidige, with her years of observation experience, said she noted the same thing as well. Illidge told StMaartenNews.com that ironically someone had called the police. But there were police officers on the scene at the medical center who had joined the protestors in solidarity. The station called one of the officers and he confirmed that everything was under control at the hospital. Later, others confirmed to Illidge that it was Dr. Holiday who had had the police called. “He was not happy that his sanctuary was disturbed,” Illidge stated.

Illidge explained that Dr. Holiday told her that their actions spoke loud and clear and that he would deliberate the matter internally. Illidge said actions will continue until management meets the demands of the staff.

When asked if protesting inside a medical facility was not an irresponsible action, Illidge, who had been a trained nurse for 49 years, concluded her interview with the following statement: “People have no fear. The work with the patients continues. Patient care continues to be on point. We will never put the patients at the medical center in jeopardy.”

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