During a well-attended ceremony and in witness of the Governor of St. Maarten his Excellency Drs. Eugene Holiday, Deputy Prime Minister Wycliffe Smith, Minister of VSA Emil Lee and the Council of Ministers, Dutch Representative Chris Johnson, the Chairman of the Supervisory Council of the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), Robert Jan James, the Board of Directors of SMMC Kees Klarenbeek and Dr. Felix Holiday and numerous Government officials and other dignitaries, ground was officially broken for the construction of the new hospital: St. Maarten General Hospital.
The official groundbreaking ceremony was held at SMMC in close proximity of where the new hospital building will be erected during the coming 3 years, which is the area at the West side of the present SMMC building close to the G.A. Arnell Boulevard Road (opposite the Welgelegen Road roundabout). SMMC General Director, Kees Klarenbeek, explained in a detailed presentation that the actual construction of the new hospital will start in March 2019 when soil and site preparations have been concluded: “we anticipate moving into the main building by December 2021 which will clear the way for demolition works to start on the present SMMC building and the additional wing, parking garage and helicopter pad to be constructed. It hurts to have to say goodbye to the present building but Irma has taught us that we need a hospital that can withstand 200+mph winds”.
His presentation featured a 3D animation that gave guests a virtual glimpse how the new hospital will look, walking inside, through the corridors and the outside of the state of the art building.
SMMC Medical Director, Dr. Felix Holiday, emphasized that the trajectory towards the new hospital also includes the training and further upgrading of all staff in order to meet the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation standards. According to Dr. Holiday: “Essential upgrading of hospital staff also includes meeting international safety and quality standards, which is a trajectory we have already embarked upon with the end goal in several years’ time: to be a JCI accredited institution, which will be a first in the Dutch Caribbean”.
Minister of VSA, Emil Lee, emphasized: “The fact that Irma passed before we began construction allowed us to reengineer the project with higher specifications. Allowing us to build what we believe will be one of the strongest buildings on the island, engineered not only for super hurricanes but also for earthquakes.
The fact that Recovery Funds were made available via the World Bank, has allowed for a grant to finance the strengthening of the new hospital as well as make provisions for improvements of the SMMC while the construction takes place. A new hospital also means quality care, close to home resulting in less referrals abroad so healthcare costs for the country will go down and that money previously sent abroad will remain within the economy of St. Maarten”
The Deputy Prime Minister, Wycliff Smith, who attended the event on behalf of the Prime Minister who was abroad, Dutch Representative Chris Johnson, Glen Carty of SZV, SMMC Chairman of Supervisory Council and Alesandro Cambri of general contractor INSO also addressed the invited guests and congratulated SMMC management and staff with reaching this important milestone in the country’s history.