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Healthcare strategy to be drawn up by summer

Chief medical officer Cheryl Peek-Ball

A workforce strategy for Bermuda’s medical future is to be drawn up by early next summer as healthcare stakeholders prepare for a changing population.

“We’re at the beginning of assessing the community’s human resources needs for health,” said Cheryl Peek-Ball, the chief medical officer, in the wake of a planning seminar with input from the Pan-American Health Organisation.

Some of the issues are nothing new: the shortage of nurses is a longstanding global problem, and the island has historically faced challenges in retaining its medical professionals.

The island-wide consultation now under way will include the Department of Immigration in drafting Bermuda’s blueprint.

Among seminar participants was Noreen Jack, the Paho and World Health Organisation representative to Jamaica.

“It’s not unique to Bermuda; it’s everywhere,” said Dr Jack.

Influencing factors include the training and retention of personnel for the field — or the attraction of higher salaries or better chances for advancement that make some areas more enticing than others.

“That said, we heard that Bermuda is not really worse off. You have a fair number of personnel, particularly specialists.”

Lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes, termed as chronic non-communicable disease, exact a heavy toll on the healthcare system.

Planning for the future is likely to include “more generalists, to engage with the community for them to take care of themselves,” Dr Jack said.

“There is a need for personnel from the beginning, so that each point is an opportunity for intervention — not waiting for people to get sick.”

In 2013, the worldwide shortfall of healthcare personnel was estimated at 17 million.

“It’s expected to increase into the future,” Dr Jack added.

Dr Peek-Ball said the planning exercise confronted “complexities that make this not such an easy exercise — there are subtle details that have to be worked out”.

“We’ve been gathering information over the last five months. Now we are going to paint a clear picture of where we are.”