Published On: Fri, Sep 25th, 2020

Medical liability issue gets attention from government

PHILIPSBURG — The government, led by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, wants a St. Maarten version of the Dutch Individual Health Care Professions Act (Wet BIG). This is stated in the NA-UP Governing Program 2020-2024(*) that was published on September 12th. The BIG ordinance regulates medical liability and determines which actions are reserved exclusively for qualified doctors with specific titles.

In the Netherlands, all healthcare providers – doctors, physician assistants, nurses, therapists, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, dieticians – can submit an application to be registered in the BIG register to be able to hold their title. The register is public; anyone can look up a health care provider to see their track record and whether they have ever been subject to any disciplinary action.

While all healthcare providers in the Netherlands can be brought before the medical Disciplinary Court, complaints in St. Maarten can only be lodged about the acts or omissions of doctors, dentists, midwives and pharmacists. Medical disciplinary law in St. Maarten is laid down in a law from 1958 [EENVORMIGE LANDSVERORDENING houdende regeling van de tuchtrechtspraak over personen, die geneeskunst uitoefenen, zomede over apothekers].

Members of the Common Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba participate in ‘Bijzondere Colleges’, special boards, including the ‘Medisch Tuchtcollege’, the Medical Disciplinary Board. This rarely happens; of all islands together, annually, an average of ten complaints about incorrect medical treatment by a healthcare provider are received. Victims and family members of victims first file a complaint with the Health Inspectorate. The Inspector General is obliged to report serious complaints, such as the death of a patient, to the Medical Disciplinary Court.

The Medical Disciplinary Board convenes in Curacao, behind closed doors. Family and victims can be assisted by a personal injury lawyer. If a care provider has acted culpably, a complaint will be declared well-founded. In that case, a warning, reprimand, suspension or ban may be issued. The Board cannot award damages or establish liability of a care provider. This is done through a normal civil court procedure. Finally, it is possible to appeal to the Common Court on Curaçao.

When the Netherlands Antilles fell apart, it was determined that St. Maarten and Curacao each would have their own medical disciplinary committee. The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport would appoint a disciplinary committee for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. Aruba already had its own medical disciplinary committee.

The Netherlands has since amended the legislation of the Netherlands Antilles and established the Medical Disciplinary Court for the Caribbean Netherlands (MTCN). The board consists of a chairperson and two medical professionals – a doctor, medical specialist or dentist, of which the MTCN always tries to have one from another Caribbean island participate. The first three cases were handled by the MTCN in October 2019. In these cases, the board consisted of a lawyer and two doctors. The members were appointed by the Dutch Minister of Health.

In practice, the members of the MTCN also perform for Curacao and St. Maarten and then meet on Curacao in a special session. Although each country should have its chairperson and members of the disciplinary committee appointed by its own Minister of Health, St. Maarten has not yet done so. Also, the 1958 law on disciplinary jurisdiction has not yet been ratified by the Country of St. Maarten.


(*) Publisher’s Note: The Sint Maarten Governing Program 2020-2024 has since been removed from the SintMaartenGov.org website with the following notification to the media:

Press Release

On, September 12th 2020, the NA-UP Governing Program 2020-2024 was uploaded to the official Government website, www.sintmaartengov.org. However, today, Wednesday, September 24, 2020, it was brought to my attention that an incorrect version was uploaded to the site.

It is with that in mind, that this version of our Governing Program was immediately removed with my sincere apologies. The general public is hereby informed that the Official Governing Program 2020-2024 will be published as soon as possible after ensuring the completeness thereof.

On behalf of the Council of Ministers and the Coalition partners NA-UP, I hereby extend my heartfelt apologies for the mix-up and look forward to the necessary dialogue once it is once again made available.

Pedro de Weever