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Proposed healthcare legislation under fire

Physicians have criticised proposed healthcare legislation for unfairly targeting the private sector.

The Bermuda Health Council Amendment Act 2016, which is due to be debated in the House of Assembly later this year, came under fire during a public meeting held by the council last night in Hamilton.

But Bermuda Health Council CEO Tawanna Wedderburn told the audience that the council was continuing to meet with stakeholders and working groups to discuss the proposed reforms.

“We have been pouring over the legislation and one thing under review is likely to change,” she said. “Many other things are likely to change. We have not finished the work”

More than 60 people attended the meeting at the Wesley Methodist Church on Church Street including Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health, Michael Weeks, the Shadow Minister of Health and former Premier, Ewart Brown, executive chairman of Bermuda Healthcare Services.

Three members of the council provided a broad outline of the role played by the quango before questions from the audience began to focus on the proposed legislation.

In July Ms Atherden deferred the Bermuda Health Council Amendment Act “to clarify several detailed and specific aspects”.

The proposed Act enables the Health Council to grant permission to health service providers to make financially vested referrals, to license health service providers and to grant permission for entry of high-risk medical technology.

“The proposed amendments unfairly target the private sector,” Dr Jay Jay Soares said. “We feel it is skewed against the private enterprise.

“We see the hospital having everything waived through. At the hospital a blood count test costs twice as much as it does in the private sector, sometimes even more, and that is not right. It is not a level playing field.

“This legislation, while in theory it applies to the hospital, it will not.”

Several physicians claimed that the focus of the legislation should not be on private practice, which represents 6 per cent of healthcare costs, but the hospital, which represents 40 per cent.

Dr Brown said: “I believe to a certain extent the focus is misdirected. Your real focus should be on the largest area of wastage at the hospital and not the 6 per cent You have incurred the wrath of people who believe this is a targeted exercise.

“If you want to regulate, you can regulate, but it has to make sense otherwise it will suffer the same consequences as the first two attempts of this oppressive legislation.”

Ms Wedderburn insisted the reforms were a response to concerns raised by the public and said there would be further meetings where residents would be able to have their say on the amendment legislation.

Meanwhile, Ms Atherden added: “This is not targeted towards any individual.

“We are pleased to have this conversation.

“As we go forward there will be more opportunities to talk about the healthcare system.”

Healthy discussion: panellists at the health council meeting were, from right, Ricky Brathwaite, experienced in healthcare economics research, health systems engineering, and bioengineering; Laure Marshall, programme manager for health regulation at the health council; and Ian Cameron, compliance officer and policy analyst at the Bermuda Health Council (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 23, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 23, 2016 at 2:32 am)

Proposed healthcare legislation under fire

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