Man’s death exposes problems with healthcare system, say friends
A “systemic breakdown” in the healthcare system that allowed some people to slip through the cracks has to be tackled, activists said yesterday.
Friends of Milton Ming – a Bermudian chef who died days after he was flown overseas for treatment – said his life could have been saved if there had been better co-ordination.
A spokeswoman for the group said: “It shouldn’t have taken so long to resolve the administrative stumbling blocks that we kept encountering.
“It shouldn’t have taken more than a dozen White men and women using their connections and influence to break through the many logjams we faced.
“Most grievously and most heartbreaking, Milton shouldn’t have had to die to bring this unacceptable process to the attention of the public. But he did die.”
She added: “We have absolutely no doubt that if it hadn’t taken so long to co-ordinate the requirements for his overseas care, Milton would be alive today.”
The spokeswoman emphasised: “We aren’t accusing anyone involved in Milton’s case of not caring about him or not wanting a successful outcome, but the lack of a sense of urgency for a desperately ill man, bordering on a laissez faire attitude, was appalling.”
She said Mr Ming was a respected chef who had worked at the Elbow Beach Hotel and the former Stonington Beach Hotel.
The spokeswoman added: “He demonstrated daily how a person could overcome negativity with faith and hope.
“Milton, along with his brother Dean, cared for their mom during the last years of her life. He was committed to caring for his mother even though his health was rapidly deteriorating.
“He loved his mother dearly and did whatever needed to be done for her.”
The spokeswoman said the group organised last November after Mr Ming posted on Facebook about problems he faced after he suffered an aortic aneurysm.
She said: “He was in King Edward VII Memorial Hospital at the time. He had been diagnosed with a life-threatening aneurysm, although we don’t know the exact date of his diagnosis.
“Milton described his condition, the extreme pain he was in. He said he was told he had to go overseas for treatment that couldn’t be provided here and asked for help.
“We began to contact the various organisations we were aware were involved in his care as well as in decision-making regarding his travel to the US.”
The spokeswoman added that Mr Ming had several barriers to travel for treatment.
His HIP insurance would not cover the entire cost of overseas care and he had old drugs convictions that made entry into the US difficult.
The spokeswoman said: “As a result, we needed to raise extra funds to meet the medical costs not covered by Milton’s HIP insurance and we had to secure a waiver to allow him to travel to the US.”
But she added: “There was no one with responsibility to co-ordinate every aspect of his crisis – in other words, no case or project manager with complete authority to manage his case.
“His past drug convictions and his lack of comprehensive insurance were by no means insurmountable. What made it so difficult to help Milton was that, far too often, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, or had already done.”
Mr Ming was told he could be treated in Bermuda late last November – but advised days later that he would still need to receive treatment overseas.
The spokeswoman said: “No one could tell Milton, or us, why the medical opinion regarding the urgency of his condition changed so dramatically or even who reversed course on how urgent the treatment was.
“In the midst of these 180-degree turns emanating from an unknown and unidentifiable source or sources within Bermuda’s healthcare system, we discovered that Milton’s case for medical travel had been closed, unbeknown to Milton, and unbeknown to his social worker and his cardiologist.
“This brought all activity to a complete halt and made fundraising and any other advocacy impossible because, technically, his health crisis had ceased to exist.”
The group were able to secure a flight for Mr Ming last Christmas Eve and the US Consulate expedited a travel waiver.
The spokeswoman said: “It was the best present he, and we, could have received.
“From the start of our involvement to the receipt of this wonderful news, almost six weeks passed while this warm, loving, exuberant man waited, not knowing from one day to the next what his fate would be.”
The spokeswoman praised several people and organisations for their help, including Sam Mir, the director of cardiology at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, the Office of the Registrar-General and the US Consulate.
But she said the group hoped that action would be taken to tackle the gaps in the system for the under-insured.
The spokeswoman added: “The lack of an empowered ‘point person’ would seem to be a relatively straightforward issue to address.
“We hope that the revamp of our healthcare/health insurance system makes this a priority, but we feel this is an issue that needs to be actioned immediately to prevent others from suffering the same fate that Milton did.”