Minister: CCU shutdown will take years
Plans to shut down the hospital’s Continuing Care Unit will take at least two years to implement, Health Minister Patricia Gordon Pamplin has revealed.
Last week the Minister said Government planned to shut down the facility because it was “not fit for purpose” and “inappropriate” to keep patients there indefinitely. The unit provides long-term care for around 150 elderly patients and younger disabled patients.
Although the Minister did not reveal a timeline for the shutdown during her announcement last week, the news prompted concern among commentators that the closure was imminent — and that patients and staff would be left without a facility.
But at a press conference yesterday, Ms Gordon Pamplin stressed that the unit would not close “overnight” and that Government was now working to find alternative venues for a new unit.
“Let me be clear on that matter, if the CCU closes, it will not be in the next few days, the next few weeks or even the next few months. Any closure will be done over the course of maybe the next two years,” the Minister said.
“Although no formal time frame has been set, we are looking at a minimum of two years down the road to complete any transition.
“It is important to note that before the CCU does close, the capacity of the private sector to accept CCU residents must first be assessed. As a result, any transition of both residents and staff will take a significant amount of time.
“What everyone should also keep in mind is that it’s not just seniors who reside at the CCU. There are also young, disabled residents who will have to be accommodated.
“Proper and acceptable residential facilities will have to be found for both the seniors and the young disabled — and the planning for this will not take days, weeks or months but literally years.
Addressing concerns that staff could soon lose their jobs, the Minister said: “I understand that the staff at the hospital — especially those who provide service at the CCU — are concerned that they will be out of work. In this regard, I think it’s important to acknowledge and remind everyone that the BHB management has already included the unions in discussions about the financial position of the BHB.
“In addition, the vast majority of the CCU staff are unionised, and their union agreements set out the details of what has to be done if and when a service is discontinued. I know that the BHB management team are entirely familiar with the Collective Agreements and will abide by their provisions.”
The CCU, which is housed in the oldest wing of King Edward VII Memorial (KEMH), has been criticised in recent months because of its poor environment.
At yesterday’s press conference, Ms Gordon Pamplin confirmed that the hospital did not have the “capacity’ to accommodate the unit.
“KEMH is Bermuda’s only acute care hospital, and the Board and the hospital staff are focused on reviewing the core services provided by the Board and the hospital,” she said.
“Acute care is the number one service that the hospital has to provide, but to make that service successful they have to partner with the rest of the Bermuda health system as well as overseas providers.
“The CCU residents and staff will not be left to fend for themselves. We will plan for their future and ensure that they are both prepared for that future and receive the assistance they need and deserve.”
Yesterday’s statement by Mrs Gordon Pamplin drew an angry response from Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva.
The Opposition MP said the Minister’s remarks were “small comfort for those who have seen the OBA break promises before”.
He suggested that by planning to replace the aged, much criticised Continuing Care Unit with a new facility, Government was forcing elderly patients to make sacrifices — before pointing out that the Progressive Labour Party had considered a similar plan when it was in Government.
“The Island's finances must be brought under control through shared sacrifice, yet the OBA's version of shared sacrifice continues to mean those least able to bear the burden are asked to carry the heaviest load,” Mr DeSilva said.
“Meanwhile, individuals associated with the OBA continue to gobble up taxpayer funded consultancies, maximise their profits and sacrifice nothing. The OBA needs to look within and begin asking people other than our seniors to sacrifice.
“The PLP granted in-principle approval for plans to create a Private Sector Seniors Care Facility. We recognised that fiscal challenges and an ageing population demanded a private-sector driven strategy for facilities and programme development to address the current and future challenges facing our seniors. Unfortunately the OBA blocked this plan which could have potentially saved taxpayers millions of dollars and offered a more compassionate approach to the one they have selected.”