Hospitals estimate to be more accurate this year
With an estimated $191 million allocated for the coming fiscal year, the Ministry of Health has netted the biggest share of Government’s projected expenditure.
The biggest slice of that - $142.6 million - has been set aside for hospitals, where services for every eligible Bermudian are covered by a Government subsidy.
Traditionally, the estimated expenditure for the hospital has lagged behind the actual figure spent during the year. For instance, in the financial year now ending, Government’s estimate was some $20 million less than what hospitals actually cost the Government.
In the 2012/13 Budget, the estimate has been brought in line with what Government actually expects to pay out for the Island’s hospitals.
Bermuda Health Council CEO Jennifer Attride-Stirling commended the switch, saying: “What we have seen in the past is that the level the subsidy budget was set at was below actual expenditure, and they would go back for supplemental funds. This year the Ministry seems to have set the subsidy budget to prevent this from happening, which should be stabilising for the health budget.”
Although the present fiscal year still has the month of March to go, actual spending for the year looks set to come in a little over $193 million for the full Ministry. Dr Attride-Stirling said, the Health budget actually stands to drop by around $2 million compared to 2010-2011.
Explained a spokeswoman for the Bermuda Hospitals Board: “In previous years, a subsidy was set with the expectation that a supplementary amount would be approved later in the year, based on the services used.
“This year’s subsidy represents the expected true cost of healthcare up front, and is a more prudent and transparent way of budgeting. BHB will be working closely with Government to ensure effective measures to control utilisation and cost.”
The slight increase in hospital spending for 2012/13, she said, includes a fee increase of one percent which goes directly toward paying for the new facility under construction at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
A further one percent fee hike is in anticipation of “the rising costs of drugs, supplies and the ongoing maintenance of our existing equipment and facilities”, the spokeswoman added.
The spokeswoman said there would be no cost of living pay increases across all levels of the organisation and vacancies would be frozen wherever possible as it tried to control costs.
Health Minister Zane DeSilva said his Ministry was working closely with the BHB on a memorandum of understanding to cap the hospital subsidy.
“If we put a cap on subsidy, we will be able to budget,” he said. “We will know exactly what our maximum liability will be for hospital subsidy. If we agree to a cap of $104 million, the maximum that we will pay will be that $104 million.”
A cap would also put pressure on the hospital to rein in costs, Mr DeSilva said.
One Bermuda Alliance MP Louise Jackson noted the Budget Statement itself did not mention healthcare at all.
“There was not one bit about health,” she said. “$191 million, and not a word was said.”
Ms Jackson said the Opposition wanted to see the Medical Clinic reopened and universal palliative care.
She called for a review of the FutureCare health insurance system for seniors. Unappeased that spending for seniors homes Lefroy House and the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility had remained unaltered, at $5.2 and $5.5 million respectively, Ms Jackson also asked why “Sylvia Richardson is like a five-star hotel, and Lefroy House is not a place you would want to live in or have your loved ones in”.
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