SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday revealed that the newly appointed Australian Director of the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) Dr. Grant Muddle had what he called a “messy history” at his previous hospital tenure and called for the reversal of the decision to appoint him post haste.
“If this is the same person, reverse the decision not only on those grounds, but for the simple fact that this nonsense of appointing people from half way across the world over our own qualified people must stop,” MP Emmanuel said. “The entire board at SMMC has to go. They are there too long and they feel like kings in their own castle. They have no respect for the people of St. Maarten,” he said.
After Muddle’s name was released on Tuesday by workers of the hospital via the media, the MP conducted research into Muddle’s background and his last stint at the Angua Memorial Hospital in Papua New Guinea and found that the staff of that facility and their union protested to have him removed as CEO in January 2020 according to media reports in that country.
About 300 nurses, doctors and ancillary staff including corporate, medical and nursing services signed a petition demanding the Australian’s removal. The union explained that as an expatriate, Muddle had been appointed CEO of the hospital illegally which contradicted general provisions concerning hospital staff that limits the amounts of expatriates that could be appointed to functions in that country.
According to the media in Papua New Guinea, some of the allegations labeled against Muddle include mis-appropriation of hospital funds (failure to reimburse the hospital with funds which were paid to him as advance salary), breach of public service laws in that country, mis-management and unilaterally putting a stop to all training programs funded by the hospital, when training and further education is an important component in upgrading staff. He was eventually sidelined until a replacement could be found according to the media.
MP Emmanuel questioned if a proper background check was conducted into Muddle to determine the validity of these claims and if these issues were resolved before selecting him to run St. Maarten’s hospital. “With his history appearing to be very messy, especially when it comes to dealing with people, the MP said, how is it that an Australian, half way across the world is apparently the only person who knew about a vacancy for a hospital director on St. Maarten?”
“When and where was this vacancy advertised? And for how long was it advertised? How is it that nobody on St. Maarten knew about this vacancy? What are we doing in this country by continuously relegating our people as onlookers while others get the opportunities at top positions? This is not right and stifles any form of nation building and insulting the people of St. Maarten,” the MP said.
He continued: “Was the position even offered to Dr. Holiday who has been running SMMC for almost a year and a half? I can imagine that Dr. Holiday might not have applied when he realized that he did not have the support of the board. We couldn’t find any local professional to run and manage the hospital? What about Dr. Bell? What about Dr. Lloyd Richardson? What about Keith Franca? So many professionals we have on this island and we had to go to Australia? Well the same speed he reached here from Australia, should be the same speed he is returned to Australia. The Minister of Public Health Omar Ottley need to let him know a ticket is waiting for him.”
MP Emmanuel said the hospital board and/or the Minister of Public Health Omar Ottley cannot sit quiete on this one. “Answers must be given and that appointment must be pulled back and given to a local professional,” he said, adding that answers has to also be provided about the alleged golden handshake the former Director of the hospital received to the tune of NAf 500,000.
Emmanuel said this amount could balloon to approximately NAf 600,000 hen tax returns and other remunerations are included. “The most insulting part of this is that the board is telling our nurses, who put their lives on the front line daily, that they are valued at just a 5% increase in their salary, but the board of SMMC can give away half a million guilders as a going away present and bring in an Australian. That is a front and back-hand slap,” the MP said.