Rodrigues Pereira public health inspector in Curacao: “Not my intention to hang people”

POSTED: 11/24/14 7:58 PM

WILLEMSTAD – St. Maarten did not want him as the successor of George Scot as director of the St. Maarten Medical Center, but Gersji Rodrigues Pereira got his job in the Caribbean after all. Minister of Public Health Ben Whiteman signed the decree this week that seals his appointment as Inspector of Public Health in Curacao.

The Dutch physician is aware of the legacy he will have to deal with, Leoni Leidel-Schenk reports on Caribisch Netwerk. The Inspectorate for Public Health is under fire, dealing with complaints takes a long time due to staff shortages and the St. Elisabeth Hospital is drowning in controversy. Especially the surgeons seem to be able to do whatever they like there.

Rodrigues Pereira says that he has experience with organizations under fire. Previously he was the chairman of the board of the IJsselmeer hospitals. In 2008 he stepped down due to a failing policy in the clinics in Emmeloord and Lelystad. “I know what it is like to be at the helm of a very problematic hospital with financial problems and badly maintained surgeries.”

Rodrigues Pereira says that he did not manage at the time to get these hospitals back on track. After consultation with the supervisory board, he stepped down. He shared his history with Public Health Minister Ben Whiteman, who signed the decree for his appointment on Monday. “I am very open about this,” Rodrigues Pereira says.

That openness haunted him before. His appointment as director of the St. Maarten Medical Center in 2013 fell through, after protests from the staff and the unions.

Rodrigues Pereira still wants to stay on the path of transparency and maintain open communication with the media, something that ended the career of his predecessor Jan Huurman. “I find it important that citizens are kept abreast of the quality of the care that is being provided. Part of that is that complaints are taken seriously and that they are dealt with within a reasonable time. After that, citizens have to be informed.”

Rodrigues Pereira is already a couple of months in Curacao to execute several projects for the Ministry of Public health. “Openness is important. Curacao is a small community. Everybody knows everybody. People who file a complaint that is being dealt with inspire others to report complaints. The government is duty-bound to provide good healthcare and this is something we have to show to the community.”

The new inspector adds to this statement that it is not his intention “to hang people.”

On Monday, Rodrigues Pereira begins in his new job. He is aware of all the stories in the media about complaints that are not being dealt with and about the bad reputation of the St. Elisabeth Hospital (Sehos). He will know next week where he will begin. “First I will have to consult with the Inspector-General. Because of my earlier projects at the ministry, I have been several times at the hospital. I have seen the hospital’s condition and the problems with the construction of the new hospital.”

“We have to make do with what we have. This was also the case in the Netherlands. The IJsselmeer hospitals were the ugly ducks among the hospitals and they have been under scrutiny of the media for years. I know how complicated it is to deal with that. The most important experience I bring along from that background is that I know very well to which issues I have to pay the most attention.”

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