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Editorial - Effective approach

With the signing of a protocol (see Friday paper), long-talked-about and much-needed improvements at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) have come a step closer. Details are still to be worked out, but there is at least agreement on developing a business plan within three months.

Important is that the Health Ministry as well as Social and Health Insurance SZV are on board, because too often in the past there seemed to be a disconnect between these key entities in the local medical sector when it came to the future of the Dutch side's only hospital. This led to doubts over the exact intentions at times, compounded by the fact that several candidates used the issue as a political football during two subsequent election campaigns.

The public heard different versions ranging from a completely new building to an expansion, renovation and/or upgrade. Varying amounts also were mentioned with all these scenarios, the latest being 5 million guilders for the most urgent repairs and adjustments.

Rather than this Tower of Babel-like confusion, parties now hopefully can better coordinate their thoughts and actions on this matter that is so essential to the wellbeing of the population. As stated at the signing of the document to facilitate such, there can be no more excuses.

Quality care is obviously paramount, but one may not close one's eyes to the related cost either to ensure the community actually can carry the financial consequences. For example, a hike in SMMC's rates might well be in order, which concerns not just SZV, but also private insurers.

It should be remembered in this regard that the workers' premium for medical insurance already was doubled at the start of 2014 because government no longer would pay for coverage of family members. In some cases businesses chose to assume this addition burden, which was supposed to be temporary, for their personnel, so raising the contribution of employers is also a less-favourable prospect.

Nevertheless, considering how many people are sent abroad for treatment at society's collective expense, a lot of money spent on travel and accommodations probably could be saved if more investments in health services were made locally. Affordability also can be achieved through greater efficiency and an effective approach.

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