Alberto Bute, Claire Elshot and Raymond Jessurun.

PHILIPSBURG--The Head of the Department of Social Affairs invited Consumers Coalition for a meeting on Monday afternoon to address the refusal of healthcare coverage for local senior citizen M. Arrindell.

  “The invitation for this meeting was received after social media reactions to an article in The Daily Herald,” Coalition representative Claire Elshot said at a press conference on Thursday.

  Elshot said in their meeting Dross explained some of the difficulties case workers of the department face when written recommendations and decisions are not followed through by the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Affairs VSA.

  In the case of senior citizen Arrindell, in 2018 the department wrote a letter advising the Minister of VSA to grant Arrindell a medical card. According to Dross, then Minister of VSA Emil Lee did not follow the advice of the department and denied the renewal of the medical card.

  Arrindell’s case ultimately resulted in a hearing with the Appeal Committee for Social and Medical Aid in January after intervention of the Ombudsman in October 2018. This objection was rejected by the committee on the grounds of insufficient proof of residency.

  “We explained to the department head that we have a criterion which is a ground of discrimination in the realization of a fundamental human right to social security,” Elshot said. “The factual residency criterion is in violation of the non-discrimination principle in Article 2 and the right to health in Article 12 of a ratified International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights applicable in St. Maarten.

  “We have also informed the Ombudsman that same morning about our legal dispute with the Ministry of VSA on this discriminatory criterion,” Elshot added.

  Elshot said that Dross has agreed that the Consumers Coalition may assist the senior citizen in filing a new application, which they did.

  On Wednesday, Coalition members assisted Arrindell with submitting an application for additional social allowance to supplement her old age pension and an application for medical assistance at Social Affairs. The Coalition also submitted an application for legal assistance to take this matter to court.

  According to the Coalition, attorney Cor Merx offered his services to address the issue on behalf of the senior citizen in court. “Consumer rights are human rights which at all times should be respected, be it by private sector entities or public entities,” Elshot concludes.