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Healthcare will ‘implode’ if fees are cut

At wit’s end: Ricky Brathwaite, acting chief executive of the Bermuda Health Council (File photograph)

Bermuda’s healthcare system will “implode” if general practitioners have restrictions placed on fees, a doctor warned last night.

The source said Bermuda’s GPs faced costs up to three times those of the United States but fought to keep medical costs lower.

The doctor said: “If they try to make Bermuda like the National Health Service in Britain, it’s just not going to work. No one will want to work here under that system.”

The source added: “The whole medical system here would implode. I would go bankrupt; people would just up and leave.”

The doctor was speaking after a marathon 3½-hour emergency meeting held by the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association on Wednesday night.

The meeting heard concerns that GPs were being subjected to “heavy-handed” regulations by the BHeC.

The source said GPs were ready to protest — and reserved the option to go on strike.

The doctor said: “Hospital doctors are not allowed to strike, but community doctors can. We will wait and see what happens, but that’s a possibility. If we stand together, we could form our own union quickly and down tools.”

However, he added: “Obviously, no one wants to do that.”

Another doctor said: “There are no firm numbers on the table. There’s a lot of unanswered questions and rumblings going back and forth.”

The doctor added: “One of the major concerns is what the council would like is to decrease the amount we get, to drive down the cost of healthcare.

“There is no meeting around the table beforehand. It’s like the Bermuda Health Council is throwing mud at the wall to see what will stick.”

The GP said overall expenditure for doctors had been “pretty stable” and was much lower than what was spent on hospital care.

The source estimated that about 50 doctors had attended the meeting.

Both doctors, who asked not to be named, said they feared Bermuda was moving from public and private funded care to a one-tier healthcare system.

Both added there was a widespread belief in the profession that the goal was to “create a system that’s going to decrease our income”.

One said: “I believe what they’re trying to do is create a single-tier healthcare system.”

However, Ricky Brathwaite, the acting chief executive of BHeC, said: “We won’t expect the physicians of Bermuda to provide a service that can’t pay their bills”.

Dr Brathwaite added: “While I appreciate the opportunity to provide play-by-play on these consultation meetings, I think it would be most fair for the process and every person involved to allow these conversations to naturally progress.

“We are looking forward to having regular meetings with the physician community to talk about healthcare and we will purposefully and meaningfully have them.

“We expect these to be serious meetings of respect and trust. We expect that any negotiations that take place do not take place in the media, but are done with the patient in mind and with the perspective that we are all in this together.”

Dr Brathwaite added: “The primary purpose of these meetings is to break down what is working well now in our health system and what is not working well and come up with solutions.”

He said: “We are at our wit’s end hearing about our seniors whose coverage for their prescription meds are done in November and they have to figure out what to do next.

“Having a 92-year-old have to call around to family members to line up who is going to cover what month of her drugs is just not right.”

Dr Brathwaite added: “We can’t continue to sell the public of Bermuda a product they cannot afford.”

He said the model for Bermuda’s healthcare was “yet to be determined”.

He added: “But that is the whole purpose of dialogue. As part of that dialogue, fundamentally we all have to answer the question as to whether everyone deserves the right to have access to health, and if we believe they do, whether everyone is willing to contribute what they can to make that possible.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said the ministry and the BHeC were involved in “meaningful dialogue” with doctors and other interested parties.

She said it was “disingenuous to present discussions as if any decisions had been made”.

The spokeswoman added: “The meeting hosted by BMDA was part of constructive dialogue and the process of collaboration will continue.

“This reaction from one or two physicians is unfortunate and misleading. We look forward to the next level of the conversation with the wider community.”