Medical Clinic to care for the vulnerable once again

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  • (Photo by Akil Simmons) 
Health and Seniors Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin.

    (Photo by Akil Simmons) Health and Seniors Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin.

Synergy from combined ministries

New Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin has pledged to make transparency the order of the day under her watch.
The Minister, who made her first bid for Parliament 20 years ago as an independent candidate, noted that this is the first time the Island has had a Minister of Health and Seniors — which Ms Gordon-Pamplin attributed in part to a desire by One Bermuda Alliance Premier Craig Cannonier to consolidate positions.
Explaining her new title, she told The Royal Gazette: “I believe the intent initially was to have a far smaller Cabinet. So the Premier was going to put some Ministries together which had a natural synergy. Clearly, as the population ages, it has a serious impact on health and the cost of healthcare. It’s a natural fit, to put seniors in with health.”
Retired OBA veteran Louise Jackson, who for years carried the Shadow portfolio of Health and Seniors, called it “a happy moment to see our seniors have a Ministry of their own”.
Added Ms Jackson: “Most developed countries have a Ministry for Seniors. It is a one-stop shop under a Minister that hears their needs. Too long have seniors had to go to several Ministries, most not knowing which Minister to go to for their various problems.”
The new Minister said she’d “pull double shifts” to continue working as Chief Accountant for Everest Re while attending to Ministry affairs.
Vowing to be “open, extremely transparent, and to be accountable”, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “Obviously, as an accountant by profession, cost-containment is a major challenge for me to see accomplished.
“I’m assuming that, certainly from the perspective of accountability and transparency, I know that being a Member of Parliament, and having heard so many questions asked that were not answered, I’m hoping not to go down that path.”
The 63-year-old mother of two, who ran as an independent for Warwick East in the 1993 election, was appointed to the Senate in 1998 and, in 1999, obtained a Parliamentary seat after winning a primary. She held the seat over the next three elections.
She was Deputy Leader of the United Bermuda Party in 2006 and 2007, later serving a stint as Acting Leader.
Her Shadow portfolios have ranged from Youth, Sport and Recreation to Labour and Home Affairs, Finance, and Public Works.

More than five years after its controversial closure, the Medical Clinic is to open under the One Bermuda Alliance.

Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin vowed to have the clinic — which served vulnerable patients such as the homeless, elderly and mentally ill — up and running again within six months.

“That’s something that we had promised during the election campaign, and it’s something I’m hoping to deliver within a very short period of time,” the Minister told The Royal Gazette, adding that since the facility was shut down in 2007 under Premier Ewart Brown, “many people have had no healthcare”.

The Government-funded centre provided healthcare at no charge.

Its closure was announced in the Progressive Labour Party’s Throne Speech of 2006.

Despite strident protests, Dr Brown maintained that the facility, formerly known as the Indigent Clinic, robbed patients of dignity, and that the same services could be provided elsewhere in the healthcare system.

In its absence, however, more patients have resorted to the Emergency Room for treatment, at a time when Government is struggling to contain healthcare costs.

Said Ms Gordon-Pamplin: “I think that the concept behind the initial closure was laudable, but the execution has been disappointing, inasmuch as I believe fervently that one’s healthcare should not be predicated on the amount of money one has in the bank account. That was the purpose behind the closure of the clinic — the idea that patients would be absorbed in the regular medical practices across the Island. It’s just not happened in the manner in which former Premier Brown hoped, and as a result we have a lot of people who’ve had zero healthcare since the closure of that clinic.”

Because of the economic recession, she said: “We have far more uninsured people that we might have had at the time the clinic closed.”

On the question of location and time-frame, the new Minister admitted: “We obviously still have to work out the logistics, so it’s a little difficult to say.”

Saying she was happy to defer to the Bermuda Hospitals Board on the physical location of the Medical Clinic, she added: “I’m just not prepared to defer to anybody as to the fact that it will happen. It’s going to be there.”

BHB chief executive officer Venetta Symonds confirmed that the Board had been instructed to plan for, and open, a Medical Clinic at King Edward VII Memorial.

“We are in the process of establishing a working group to make this happen and this group will define scope, review options for its location and staffing so that it is a cost-effective and quality service,” she added.

Following the Clinic’s closure, patients with mental and medical health issues were treated at a clinic in the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, which remains in operation.

Ms Symonds said: “What we have experienced over the last few years, especially as the economy has worsened, is an increasing number of people turning up at Emergency or the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Clinic who have no insurance and no resources to pay for their care. They come to the hospital as it is our mission to provide care, irrespective of someone’s ability to pay up front.

“This can result in people incurring costs they cannot afford, especially as accessing emergency care is much more costly than primary care, even for minor conditions. Additionally, it can mean they seek care later and do not seek help for chronic illnesses until they become more acute. Especially in these economically challenging times, a Medical Clinic can help improve care, support health and reduce the reliance on costly emergency services.”

Former OBA health and seniors spokeswoman Louise Jackson, who pressed continually for the Clinic to be reinstated, last night said she was “happy and relieved” at the news.

“High praise to the Minister of Health and Seniors, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, for making this a high priority project,” Ms Jackson said. “There has been a long term need for this healthcare facility, and people have suffered for lack of healthcare.

“Congratulations to the Minister and to the hundreds of Bermudians who marched and advocated for the needy hoping to have the Medical Clinic reopened.”

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Published Jan 10, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm)

Medical Clinic to care for the vulnerable once again

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