BHB: medical care travelling ‘problematic’


A man in need of an operation that can be done overseas only said yesterday he feared he may lose a limb because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

He said: “There’s a time limit or I’m going to end up losing my leg.”

But the man said that he had been told by the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s medical concierge service that he was not eligible for a medevac flight.

He explained: “The lady told me that ‘you have to be in the hospital, it has to be critical’. I asked if losing my leg was critical and she told me no, because they can give you a prosthetic leg.”

The man said that he had contacted The Royal Gazette to try and draw attention to the problem faced by Bermuda residents who needed to leave the island for advanced medical treatment.

The 65-year-old Pembroke man, who asked not to be named, said: “They’re doing repatriation flights for people who want to get back to their families — but they’ve not mentioned how to deal with people that need operations that can’t have them in Bermuda. It’s always skirted around, or it’s never mentioned.”

He said that he needed to fly to Boston, Massachusetts, to have surgery on blood vessels in his leg — an operation not done on the island.

The man said the operation had been scheduled to take place in Boston “a few times”, but had been pushed back three times because of the pandemic.

He added that he was prepared to take his chances with international travel.

The man explained: “Obviously there’s a risk. I’d rather run the gauntlet than lose my leg.”

He said that the doctor he had been dealing with in Boston had not given him a specific time frame on when the operation needed to be performed by.

But he added: “Obviously it’s getting worse by the day.

“How that manifests over a period, I don’t know.”

The man said that he had sent text messages to the Government to highlight his problem and that he had been advised to talk to his doctor. He added: “The doctors in Boston, obviously being in the States, they have their issues and in Bermuda, there isn’t a vascular surgeon. So there’s nobody here that I can talk to for clarity, or get any confirmation, or anybody plugging to see what they’re doing about sick people that need to get on a plane to get operations.”

The man said a flight to Atlanta yesterday had not been an option. He explained he did not want to chance being quarantined in Georgia or having to make secondary travel plans. The man explained: “I’m high-risk as it is.”

He added that he could not afford to hire a private flight.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that medevac planes continued “to run as normal for emergency health-related conditions”.

She said that it would be difficult to bring specialists to Bermuda because of quarantine requirements and the lack of commercial flights.

But the spokeswoman added: “That would not be a government decision, but one requested by the private medical professionals on island and the hospital.”

She said records were not kept of people who needed to leave the island to have surgery or other procedures performed.

She explained: “That information would only be known by the individual physicians.”

The spokeswoman said anyone concerned about their ability to leave the island for medical treatment should contact their GP to discuss the options.

She added: “We as an island need to ensure we are shielding the most vulnerable during this time while also ensuring those with non-communicable diseases especially, are caring for themselves so they do not become critically ill. Please go to your doctor, do not wait.”

The spokeswoman said: “Please do not be alarmed as there is no barrier to persons needing emergency medical care to leave the island as medevac continues to operate.”

A spokeswoman for BHB said that people seeking overseas care during the pandemic is “problematic”.

She explained: “There are no commercial flights, and hospitals around the world are sometimes limiting non-emergency care if they are in an area in lockdown, for example, or dealing with an overwhelming number of Covid-19 cases themselves.”

The spokeswoman said BHB had not had any problems with emergency referrals overseas using medevac flights. But she admitted: “People who would have previously used commercial flights for diagnostic services, surgeries or treatments have no current options for flying from and back to Bermuda.

“For the most part, when it comes to patients who are under the care of BHB, we are managing care on island with the support of telemedicine consultations with a number of different overseas hospitals.”

The spokeswoman said that the BHB was in talks with the Department of Health on “how to best support patients with care needs that cannot be provided in Bermuda, especially where a delay may result in an emergency situation”.

She added: “We have every sympathy for people dealing with care issues during the pandemic, and will continue to do all we can to support them on island until other options are possible.”

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Published May 16, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated May 16, 2020 at 7:00 am)

BHB: medical care travelling ‘problematic’

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