Published On: Tue, Sep 22nd, 2020

Medical recognition divisive issue at Mental Health Foundation

CAY HILL — The board of the Mental Health Foundation has elected a new interim director whose name does not appear in the BIG register. Dr. Kitty Pelswijk, who also acts as medical coordinator, is not officially allowed to use the title of doctor in the Netherlands and, if it is up to Minister of VSA Richard Panneflek, soon not in St. Maarten either. 

The Ministry of VSA announces that the finalization of the legal trajectory for the mandatory registration of medical professionals is a priority for minister Richard Panneflek. The so-called BIG ordinance (National Ordinance on Individual Medical Professionals) was one of the many ordinances taken over from the Netherlands Antilles by country St. Maarten in 2010 but has never been published. 

In 2018, two national decrees containing general measures stemming from the main BIG ordinance were said to be in their final stages. “The process was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, like the breakdown of previous governments,” the ministry of VSA explains. Consultation rounds with professional stakeholders and associations, the Council for Advice, the Council for Public Health, and health care institutions will commence promptly. 

The BIG ordinance (Wet BIG) includes rules and standards to protect patients against inept and careless actions by healthcare providers. The BIG register is a database that originates from the BIG ordinance. All types of healthcare providers are registered in the BIG register. Anyone can consult the register to obtain clarity about the competence of a healthcare provider. 

The board of Mental Health Foundation chaired by dr. Felix Holiday elected the recently hired dr. Kitty Pelswijk from Surinam as the new interim director. Dr. Pelswijk also acts as the medical coordinator and oversees the activities of more than thirty caregivers, including four psychologists, three psychiatrists, two clinic nurses, four case managers, one information and prevention coordinator, two social workers, and one occupational therapist. Pelswijk, who uses the title psychiatrist since she completed her studies at the Anton de Kom University in Suriname in October 2017, has been placed above the only two BIG-registered psychiatrists available to the Mental Health Foundation. 

Both dr. Hendrick Nijdam and dr. Ilse Kelbrick are qualified psychiatrists with years of experience. Dr. Kelbrick has worked as an adult psychiatrist for more than 15 years and started working part-time at the Mental Health Foundation in May last year. She has recently been fired by the acting interim director Eileen Healy, and she is fighting her case in court. Her colleague, dr. Nijdam, the only remaining BIG-registered psychiatrist, regrets having to work under someone less qualified than himself. 

In 2019 the mental health foundation had a record number of crises, upwards of 500, according to acting interim director Eileen Healy. The number of serious mental health crises this year remains undisclosed. 

Last year Healy said the organization needed a new building to accommodate the rise in crisis admissions, in addition to a guided living facility. There were 20 patients who needed homes. This year the number of visits to patients has been reduced. Reportedly, given the pandemic, the new interim director does not think it is safe for healthcare providers to visit patients and provide them with medication.


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