Doctors urge health plan rethink
Bermuda's doctors have warned the proposed Bermuda Health Plan may not reduce the cost of healthcare without hurting the quality of service.
In advance of the first in a series of town hall meetings on the proposed changes, the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association urged the Government against rushing into the reform process.
Henry Dowling, the BMDA president, said doctors at the organisation's first Physician Summit agreed that there was not enough consultation with doctors on the creation of a unified healthcare system.
Dr Dowling said: “Since the majority of physicians had not been given any more information about the new plan than the public, we sought out as much information from local stakeholders, as well as those in countries that had already transitioned to a similar healthcare model.
“What we found caused us concern.”
He said the doctors agreed there was an “inherent and grave danger” with the introduction of a single-payer financing model.
Dr Dowling explained: “Volatility in the cost of an ageing population could place financial burdens on the single government system, which will force them to cut services, or raise prices. Both options will hurt Bermudians' access to local and overseas services.
“Bahamas has undertaken similar healthcare reform, and their experience is enlightening. An official that helped to initiate their reform confirmed the need for a clear financing structure to be in place prior to planning any dramatic changes, or income taxes would have to be imposed to make up the shortfall.”
Dr Dowling added: “There was unanimous agreement that the unified model would not lower healthcare cost, without negatively impacting the quality of care and waiting times of services.”
The Ministry of Health will host a series of town hall meetings about the proposed Bermuda Health Plan — the first of which will be held today at the St James Church Hall in Sandys at 6.30pm.
Subsequent meetings will be held at St Paul AME Centennial Hall in Hamilton on September 30 and at Penno's Wharf, St George's on October 10.
Dr Dowling said the organisation was asked to put forward its opinion on the proposed plan, which he described as a “complete overhaul”, towards a more socialised system of healthcare as found in Canada and the UK.
He said: “Like those systems, the Bermuda Health Plan has described itself as seeking equity in healthcare and wanting to achieve universal healthcare through moving the funding of our health under a single, government-controlled system.
“They have written and verbalised the ability to bring down the cost of healthcare using this model, and through it finding ways of helping Bermudians become healthier within this new model.”
While the BMDA president said there had been interest in the idea that a unified system would improve access to primary care, the doctors agreed that more robust data was needed before they could support such a system.
He said: “We have great concerns on the very short timeframe in which the Government is proposing to implement these changes, and have challenged them to reconsider extending it and not putting any legislation forward next year that will advance such a rapid move towards socialised healthcare.”
The BMDA spokeswoman said many of the historic missteps in Bermuda's healthcare system could have been avoided if a representative of the group could be included in the Bermuda Health Council, the Bermuda Medical Council and the Bermuda Hospitals Board.
And he said the concerns of the BMDA about the potential impact of the changes were echoed by the BermudaFirst's report on Health.
Dr Dowling added: “We have begun putting a group of physicians together who will create a white paper that will lay out a more in-depth analysis of the healthcare dilemma.”
• The Bermuda Health Plan consultation guide and comparison charts are available online at www.gov.bm/healthplan