Dr Brown: Medical equipment restrictions ‘aimed at my practice’
Former Premier Ewart Brown has “no doubt” that moves by Government to restrict the importation of “new, high-cost health technology” are aimed at curtailing his medical business.
Dr Brown, a physician and founder of Bermuda HealthCare Services, also questioned the basic reasoning behind the restriction, announced in last week's Throne Speech as a step to cut down on medical costs.
“I've had a few days to digest this, and I'll tell you clearly, this is aimed at my practice,” Dr Brown told The Royal Gazette.
“Others have imported medical equipment, but no office has brought in equipment as costly as that which we have brought in over the last 15 to 20 years.”
This include a “state-of-the-art MRI” three months ago, he said.
MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is among the costly diagnostic technology which the Bermuda Health Council (BHeC) says is prone to overuse.
“We started with this equipment under the United Bermuda Party, so I thought that it was something unanimously approved by both parties,” Dr Brown said. “Both parties agreed that competition was a good thing. We've invested millions in this equipment and paid hundreds of thousands in Customs duties.”
He called the latest legislative move “bothersome”.
The restrictions will apply to future imports of equipment, which will be subject to vetting to avoid what the BHeC calls “overcapacity”.
Asked if his own practice already possessed all the technology it needed, Dr Brown said: “I think we do — but I don't like the idea of a door being closed.
“If you told the bank they couldn't bring in state-of-the-art ATMs, it would be considered anti-business and not letting the market forces determine what's best, which is the rhetoric you hear from this Government. All of a sudden from left field, there's this threat that they're going to shoot down one particular piece, which is clearly aimed at Bermuda HealthCare Services.”
Dr Brown wasn't swayed by reports by the BHeC that greater amounts of equipment inevitably lead to overuse.
“They need to teach doctors about the proper use of technology, not stop it,” he said. “When I first came home in 1991, Bermuda had no mammography machine. We were still using thermography, which was back to cave times. I don't want to see us go back. We'd like to have the option.”
He added: “Neither do we like the inference that our doctors are doing unnecessary tests. That's offensive. If you don't trust your physician, you're in trouble.”
Asked if he saw any merit in the restrictions, Dr Brown said: “No. Not unless they do it for every industry, across the board. It's the lazy way out.”
The Ministry of Health was unable to respond Dr Brown's concerns by press time last night.