Minister Richardson meets with SMMC to explore possibilities to cooperate in the provision of medical care at detention facilities
Philipsburg –The Honorable Minister of Justice, Ms. Anna E. Richardson, and the Director of the Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), Dr. Felix Holiday, convened a meeting to discuss potential collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and SMMC to improve and strengthen the medical structure and services provided at various detention facilities. The meeting was attended by Mr. Harlec Doran, SMMC HR Manager, Mr. Steven Carty, Prison Director, Ms. Geertje Van Haperen, Senior Legal Policy Advisor, and Ms. Demi Bute, Policy Advisor.
The Ministry of Justice holds the legal responsibility to ensure appropriate medical care for detainees at prison facilities, including the provision of doctors and nurses. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) emphasized the significance of this aspect in their 2014 report and their most recent visit in May 2022. They recommended that the Sint Maarten authorities take measures to guarantee that individuals held in police custody and/or detention have access to a medical doctor from the moment of their deprivation of liberty. Minister Richardson recognizes the vital importance of providing adequate medical care to inmates and takes the recommendations from the CPT, Law Enforcement Committee (LEC), and other entities very seriously.
During the discussion with Dr. Felix Holiday, various opportunities and solutions were explored to enhance the current medical services at the prison facilities in a systematic manner. Minister Richardson aims to implement a structural system, which may include a rotation program involving several medical professionals who would assist in delivering primary medical care to the prison population. This approach will establish a consistent and structured solution to address the current challenges. Dr. Holiday encouraged the Minister to establish contact with the Windward Islands Medical Association (WIMA), which comprises 30 General Practitioners (GPs), to explore collaboration possibilities. The goal is to improve services such as intake within 24 hours, multiple medical consultations per week, access to a 24/7 on-call service for emergencies, annual check-ups, basic examinations, and minor medical procedures, and the implementation of a proper file and data management system.
Furthermore, the meeting addressed the revision of medical protocols and policies applied at the prison. By involving various medical professionals, these protocols can be updated to align with legal obligations, CPT recommendations, and the needs of the inmates.
The discussion also encompassed the assessment of medical equipment used in detention facilities. Efforts have been made to contact medical equipment suppliers to inquire about pricing for new equipment. Dr. Holiday stated that the SMMC would assist in reviewing the equipment requirements to ensure their adequacy.
Minister Richardson expressed her commitment to the welfare and well-being of each inmate, emphasizing the prison as a significant focal point of her priority list. "The prison remains a major focal point of my priority list. The welfare and well-being of each inmate remain of high importance. We have faced some delays and challenges, but with all efforts to ensure that the Ministry of Justice upholds the rule of law, I opted to identify a new approach to finding a solution rather than operating with the same options that have been used for decades. This is why I’ve sought to explore the possibilities with the Sint Maarten Medical Center, and I am very pleased by Dr. Holiday’s prompt and positive response. I get the impression that SMMC has a viewpoint that together we can make positive strides, and I am grateful for this," stated Minister Richardson