Hospital in direct competiton with charities Shadow Minister Jackson

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King Edward VII Memorial Hospital is aggressively competing against charities while healthcare costs rise, according to Opposition One Bermuda Alliance seniors spokesperson Louise Jackson.

Speaking in the House of Assembly Mrs Jackson said that the hospital is limiting the options for those needing medical care while increasing profits.

But Health Minister Zane DeSilva stood up and denied that patients are not longer able to choose where they can get a mammogram, saying the statement was utterly untrue.

After being warned that she should not repeat the allegation, she said: “The people out there know the truth. It’s said now. People know what the truth is.”

Mrs Jackson said that while it is difficult to discuss hospital finances because the financial statement for 2011 has not been released, she said the figures that are available show the facility becoming what she described as a “for profit” institute.

“Believe it or not the revenue has gone up by 30 percent from 2009 to 2010. But this is the kicker, this is in spite of the fact that the number of in patients actually declined in 2010,” she said.

“If you have the revenue going up and the number of patients going down, there’s something wrong there.”

She noted that costs for numerous procedures have risen sharply since April 2009, with the cost of an appendectomy and two day stay at the hospital rising from $2,000 in April 2009 to $6,000 now.

As to why the costs have risen, she said: “Financial arrangements were made with groups of doctors, and what they did was tell them the can come into the hospital, come under our wing and we will take care of you.

“They also tell their patients they have to have their tests done at the hospital.

“Since they have taken in these groups of doctors, the charities that used to work in cooperation with the hospital now find themselves in direct completion and under financial pressure. The hospital aggressively goes after their clientele.

“Bermuda Cancer Society have now almost literally been put out of business by this crisis and these charities do feel that they are being driven out of business.”

Saying morale at the hospital had been low, Ms Jackson asked why the chief of staff was now on administrative leave.

Charging that the hospital’s problems could be trace back to “the culture and the direction provided by the Bermuda Hospitals Board”, Ms Jackson said: “They have a lot to answer for.”

She said: “I have spoken to members of the Bermuda Hospitals Board over the years.

“I’ve stood in the House and talked about many issues that have made this hospital a sick hospital. I want to say that all the news stories and things do not help us.

“We only have this one hospital. Somebody has got to answer for this. The enablers are one Board, not the present but the previous Bermuda Hospitals Board, and I want to know how they hired this person I am not going to speak of.”

Speaker Stanley Lowe interjected that the issue could not be brought into the debate.

Ms Jackson said: “Unfortunately, I don’t believe my questions will be answered now, as the House is going down.

“I will close with this. There are several entities that need to answer. Government needs to answer for the rising and high cost of healthcare in this country.”

She added: “It’s the previous Bermuda Hospitals Board, not the present one, that needs to answer for a lot of things.”

Rising next, Health Minister Zane DeSilva said Ms Jackson had opened her remarks by saying that the hospital was “showing signs of being sick”.

“That’s not a good choice of words at all,” he said.

Mr DeSilva noted he had spoken on several occasions in the house of the hospital’s accreditation, which ranked KEMH alongside the top five percent of Canadian hospitals.

“If the hospital is sick, why, I ask, do we continue to receive the accreditations that we do?”

Thanking the 1,800 staff, Mr DeSilva addressed the hospital’s financials, which he said were “almost done”.

He called for the Opposition to “remember that we only have one hospital”.

“While some members of this House can jump on a plan and spend a dime and not have to worry about a dollar to get treatment, the majority of people in this country don’t have that choice,” Mr DeSilva added. “Let’s not trash the hospital for political points.”

United Bermuda Party MP for Southampton West Central Charlie Swan rose to point out that air conditioning for the House had broken down, adding: “We seem to be having air conditioning woes with a number of Bermuda’s assets.”

Mr Swan pointed out media reports of mechanical problems on buses and ferries, and the rusting of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, adding: “It would appear that things are not being looked after.”

The Club Med land in St George’s was an unused asset, he said, with no activity in four years. “We have land leased at Nine Beaches, and nothing has happened there.”

Mr Swan called on Government to “start taking heed”.

OBA MP for Paget East Grant Gibbons spoke next, criticising the late financial statements for health insurance funding.

“When financial statements are as significantly out of date as these are, they present an opportunity for fraud and misuse of taxpayers’ money.”

Adding that he sympathised with some of the delays, Dr Gibbons said the funds were Government’s responsibility and lay at the core of health costs.

Adding that Ms Jackson had said costs at the hospital were a significant driver of healthcare costs, Dr Gibbons said: “The real challenge we have here is, it’s not just a question of whether the hospital has good accreditation or not.

“There has been a change in its culture over the past four or five years.”

He said it appeared to be more “for-profit” geared and liked the hospital to a vacuum, with “aggressive pulling of revenue into itself”, adding that the House would be going down without the Opposition seeing up to date financial statements.

“There are some real concerns here, and I don’t need to go into the issue of the recent suspension. That produces further questions which Government and the hospital board need to go into.”

Dr Gibbons concluded: “It really begs the questions of whether we can trust this government and its National Health Plan to significantly change the way the healthcare is presented in this Island.

“I don’t think for a second this community ought to be trusting this government to make those changes.”

Responding to Mr Swan’s concerns on the Club Med development, which were echoed by his UBP colleague Kim Swan, Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert called on him to “take heart”.

“There was money flowing from 1988 to 1998 and nothing happened,” Mr Furbert said. “We have had our challenges not only in those early years, but even now.”

He concluded: “St George’s is in the heart of this government, both in getting a hotel down there, and other developments.”

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Published Jul 21, 2012 at 6:48 am (Updated Jul 21, 2012 at 6:48 am)

Hospital in direct competiton with charities Shadow Minister Jackson

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