Brown to receive further fees compensation
The Government is to make further payments to doctor and former premier Ewart Brown to compensate him for losses since fees for medical scans were slashed.
A Ministry of Health spokesman told The Royal Gazette that Dr Brown will continue to receive a financial supplement for MRI scans carried out at his Bermuda Healthcare Services clinic in Paget until new increased fees come into effect on November 1.
The Bermuda Hospitals Board will also get supplementary payments.
Bermuda Healthcare Services and Dr Brown’s other practice, the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s, have already been paid a total of $600,000 in compensation, Kim Wilson, the health minister, told Parliament in February.
The health ministry spokesman said: “The payments to BHB and Dr Brown are based on actual utilisation and will continue until the 2018 fees go into effect.
“Payments for the balance or difference are only made for procedures actually performed.”
He did not provide a figure for how much Dr Brown was likely to receive in the future.
BHB has also had a debt owed to the Superannuation Fund reduced by $1.8 million.
The spokesman added that the debt reduction covered from June 1, 2017 to the end of March this year and there was expected to be a subsequent payment to BHB of about $600,000.
The reduced fees for scans, including MRIs and CTs, came into effect in June last year as part of a bid by the Bermuda Health Council to reduce healthcare costs.
Dr Brown opposed them and claimed they were designed to shut down his businesses.
The former premier, along with fellow physician JJ Soares, threatened to sue the Government but dropped the planned legal action last December after his $600,000 payout was agreed.
The CT unit at the Brown-Darrell Clinic closed in January due to the fee cuts but is due to reopen at the start of November.
MRI scans have remained available at Dr Brown’s Paget practice.
Ms Wilson told Parliament in February that the Government would increase the fees for scans this year to a level in line with technical advice from the health council.
The minister said that advice was given to the former One Bermuda Alliance administration by the BHeC but was ignored in favour of deeper fee cuts.
Scott Simmons, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, has since said the advice that was “deliberately and wilfully ignored” came from “technical officers within the Ministry of Health”.
Dr Brown has several times accused the health council of targeting him and reducing the fees as part of a sustained political attack.
Jerome Lynch QC, lawyer for Dr Brown and Dr Soares, told The Royal Gazette last week: “The previous administration appeared to target the Bermudian facilities which provide both MRI and CT scans as being an easy way of appearing to reduce the cost of healthcare in Bermuda.
“I represent both Dr Brown and his clinics and Dr Soares and his clinic. In that capacity I made it clear that we would judicially review the apparent arbitrary cuts, of up to 82 per cent in some procedures.”
He said the health council, which is responsible for recommending fees for scans to the Minister of Health, adopted a new method of calculating fees before the fee reductions.
Mr Lynch added: “Under the new administration, the Government undertook to look afresh at the fee structure.
“It became apparent that the fee structure adopted by the BHeC had arrived at certain figures which did mean a reduction in fees but nowhere near the scale that ultimately they were reduced by.
“It appeared as if the fee structure was arbitrarily further reduced. We believe it was as a result of this discovery that the Government chose to agree a subsidy of the fee structure in an attempt to ensure the continued provision of alternate services in Bermuda.”
Mr Lynch said: “Everyone, including my clients, want to see a reduction in health costs. But before cutting the ‘low hanging fruit’ — as the BHeC once called it — ask whether if it were you or your mother who was not well, would you want every diagnostic test available to determine the cause?”
A BHB spokeswoman said that although the number of scans being conducted at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had gone up slightly since the Brown-Darrell Clinic closed, there had been no change in wait times.
The hospital conducted 6,775 scans from February to July 2017, compared with 6,206 from August 2017 to January 2018 and 6,808 from February to July this year.
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