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Cuts to bureaucracy promised to boost patient care

Shake-up: Government will push ahead with healthcare system changes this year (File photograph)

A pledge to “streamline” healthcare administration so more cash can be spent on patient care was made in yesterday’s Throne Speech.

The Government said that “systemic reform” of the system was “desperately needed” if the goal of affordable universal healthcare was to be achieved.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, who delivered the speech on behalf of the Government, warned that proper universal healthcare would be “a complex, multiyear commitment“.

She said: “The change will begin with efforts to realise cost savings and continue the multiyear journey towards universal health coverage.

“The Ministry of Health will develop a national digital health strategy to leverage technology that will streamline administrative expenses, so more funds can be spent on delivering healthcare services.

“Additionally, the Government will commence merging the administration of the Government healthcare plans, which will deliver cost savings.

“Concurrently, the Ministry of Health will develop an integrated patient pathway for essential care as the first step in launching a pilot health plan for universal coverage.”

It was also announced that the health ministry would “accelerate the ongoing stakeholder engagement in the transition to an integrated healthcare model to increase the speed at which affordable essential healthcare is delivered”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health earlier admitted that a shake-up of the system was slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “Unfortunately, movement towards universal health coverage has progressed slower than we’d like due to ongoing pandemic management challenges presented to the health system.

“However, we look forward to providing more updates on progress in this area in the coming months.”

Ms Lalgie added that the overhaul would boost the economy because it would “reduce costs to business, which in turn increases economic growth”.

She said: “The pandemic has shown the world that lack of access to affordable, essential healthcare is a significant contributor to the poor health outcomes of working-class communities and the Government is focused on delivering affordable, essential healthcare for all.”

But the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance questioned how much of a dent any savings would make in the rising cost of healthcare.

Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister, said: “We unequivocally support the use of technology to make sure that we are doing things as efficiently as possible and effectively as possible.

“However, that small piece of information in the Throne Speech does not deal with the significant impact of the rising cost of healthcare on the people of Bermuda.

“We’ve seen under PLP administrations where the cost of healthcare keeps rising by double digits every year.

“They’ve pushed their universal health plan back and now they’re saying it’s been pushed back more while they consult, so we have a real question for the PLP.

“What are they actually going to do so that the person who’s paying insurance can see a better deal for them?”

Mr Dunkley added: “It’s not the quality of healthcare that we get in Bermuda so much, it’s the cost of healthcare that’s driving people to cheaper options and putting their health in jeopardy and it’s also driving people away from Bermuda because they can’t afford to live in this country.

“So while the Premier loves to talk about technology – we support that – let’s see something where the man and the woman on the street can say ‘Now I’m starting to feel better about what I’m paying for healthcare’.”

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Published November 06, 2021 at 7:35 am (Updated November 06, 2021 at 7:35 am)

Cuts to bureaucracy promised to boost patient care

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