photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – Almost half (eleven) of the GP’s (general practitioners) on Sint Maarten are going to reach retirement age within three years. The requirement that a GP has a Dutch BIG-registration (quality control) makes it difficult to recruit GP’s from the surrounding areas. The salaries are also considerably lower than those in the Netherlands according to GP’s Gerard van Osch and Andre Herles.

Herles: “The salary of a GP in the Netherlands or on our neighboring island Anguilla is a lot higher than on Sint Maarten. That makes it really unappealing for GP’s to move here. While Dutch GP’s would have an edge because of the required BIG-registration.”

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By Tim van Dijk

GP’s Van Osch and Herles expect that the primary care on Sint Maarten will be severely affected in the upcoming years. “We pointed this out a long time ago.” They are the first ones who will retire and will close down their offices on October 1st, after 31 years, with mixed feelings.

Highest number of AIDS patients in the Kingdom
When the AIDS-virus reared its head in the eighties, Van Osch set up the AIDS Foundation. Sint Maarten still has the highest number of AIDS patients in the Kingdom. There are at least 1100 registered HIV positive individuals on the island.

Van Osch stresses the importance of education at schools and the need for HIV testing. “We have to keep on educating people about this. Who will do that when I’m no longer on Sint Maarten?”, he asks aloud.
Herles: “We’ve spoken to about twelve GP’s but none of them were willing to make the move.” The GP’s have spoken to the government several times but it felt like they were talking to a wall. “We feel like we’re not being taken seriously, even after 31 years. We want to be heard because Sint Maarten and our patients feel like our home and our family.”

No response

Despite repeated requests from our reporters, the Ministry of Public Health on Sint Maarten has not reacted to our inquiry as to whether they acknowledge the problem and what plans they have to recruit new GP’s.