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Criticism of healthcare law dismissed

The Bermuda Health Council has dismissed claims that new healthcare legislation designed to ensure all service providers on the island are properly licensed is targeted against private physicians.

Ricky Brathwaite, the council's programme manager, maintained that the Bermuda Health Council Amendment Act 2016 was designed to establish a set of standards for healthcare providers to boost public trust in the system.

Mr Brathwaite told The Royal Gazette that all service providers would have to be licensed under the new Act, including the hospital.

His comments came after a public meeting earlier this week in which some physicians criticised the proposed Act for creating an uneven playing field for private GPs.

“There is no targeting in this legislation,” said Mr Brathwaite. “We do not target anyone; we advocate for everyone whether it be patients, physicians or insurers.

“Some of the criticism deflects from the ideals we are putting forward in this legislation.

“This is about public feedback and acting on what the public has been asking for a long time. This has been years in the making, it is not something that has come up overnight.”

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.

“Our goal is to increase trust in the system by having standards,” said Mr Brathwaite. “The legislation is designed to provide information to everyone and hopefully part of the $100 million that is sent abroad every year on healthcare costs can be brought back home.

“The concept of change can be hard, but we are trying to establish a comprehensive system that everyone can trust.

“This Bill has never just been a doctor's Bill about local GPs and their facilities, it runs the gamut of healthcare providers from pharmacists to the hospital. No one is exempted.

“The Act says if you have a financially vested interest in part of your business, you should tell your patient so they can make an informed decision.

“It has been said that we are taking away the choice from the patient, but we see it as the other way around.”

He added:“ People have complained to us about a “Wild, Wild West” system operating in Bermuda.

“Regulation so far has been voluntary. The Act requires the regulation and licensing of all healthcare providers and there are fees for this.”

At Monday's Health Council forum former Premier, Ewart Brown, executive chairman of Bermuda Healthcare Services, questioned provisions in the legislation that he said imposed an annual fee of 2.5 per cent of the cost of imported equipment on healthcare providers.

Mr Brathwaite said: “This has been proposed as a one-off payment. I'm not sure where the idea has come from that this is an annual fee.

“The purpose of the fee is to ensure that there is the proper standard of expertise in place to fit and then maintain this machinery. No one is trying to make money from this, it's about patient safety.”

Mr Brathwaite told The Royal Gazette that many of the proposed changes enjoyed widespread support in the community.

“Many people have been fighting them for a long time,” he said. “But it is not surprising that people have voiced concerns; people should be shouting about this. It is very important. We are talking about healthcare and people's lives.

“It is also worth remembering that this is not the biggest part of the work we do. We are working on so many other areas too with the same ultimate goal: a healthy Bermuda.

“We should not be scared of change that will lead to a more effective and progressive healthcare system.”

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Published August 26, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 26, 2016 at 4:12 am)

Criticism of healthcare law dismissed

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