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Wilson: health problems due to ‘lack of personal choice and personal responsibility’

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Kim Wilson, Minister of Health (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Overweight people not controlling what they eat are responsible for Bermuda’s health outcomes failing to match its high expenditure on medical care, MPs heard.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, told the House of Assembly on Friday that the problem was down to personal lifestyle choices and inactivity.

Pressed by One Bermuda Alliance MP Scott Pearman on why Bermuda has one of the highest per capita health expenditures globally, but the population outcomes do not reflect the scale of the outlay, Ms Wilson said it was down to the lack of personal responsibility.

The minister, who was speaking after she delivered an update on progress towards universal healthcare, said: “Regrettably, I think the primary cause with respect to our highest per capita health expenditure as well as our health outcomes is the fact that people don’t control what they eat.

“It’s a matter of inactivity. It’s a matter of lifestyle choices.

“We have three out of four individuals of adult age who are either overweight or obese, 50 per cent of adults have chronic health conditions. We are living longer, but we are living sicker.

“So, we do have a very unhealthy population which, of course, increases health costs due to utilisation and the like.

Minister highlights study on hospital ‘super users’

Dean Okereke, of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, is the project lead on a study of “superusers” of the hospital’s Emergency Department. Superusers are individuals, often with complex care needs, who make disproportionate use of health resources.

Of the 778 Emergency Department visits in a year made by the top 50 most frequently attending “superusers”, there were 101 admissions resulting in 1,002 inpatient bed days.

While 10 per cent of attendances at emergency are for scheduled visits such as IV medications and blood transfusions, 60 per cent of patients present with the same issue nearly every time and chronic conditions are a recurring theme.

The health minister, Kim Wilson, said: “A revamp of our healthcare system is necessary to help these individuals access care more appropriately, to ensure we, as a community, make best use of our vital hospital resources, and to deliver better-value care for all of us.”

“We spend over $770 million a year on our health costs, and when you look at those figures compared to the regrettable physical condition of our adult population — as well as our children, because we are seeing increases of obesity with our children — the two don’t match up.

Scott Pearman, of the One Bermuda Alliance (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“So, it is twofold — one is the lack of personal choice and personal responsibility as it relates to taking care of our own health, and then that, obviously, adds up to the utilisation and the costs continue to grow because of that.“

Asked about what other outcomes apart from obesity are falling short, the minister said: “We are speaking about chronic diseases, in particular, hypertension, diabetes and the like.

“Many of those chronic conditions, regrettably, are a direct result of lifestyle choices.

“Again, the statistics are really, really sobering. And the chronic diseases that we are seeing in this particular population are very, very alarming.”

In her statement, Ms Wilson gave an update of steps being taken to move towards universal healthcare, including a survey by the Bermuda Health Council “to understand the different views of people about health and illness”.

In addition, working groups are being set up, such as health insurers which have been invited to form a group to provide “crucial technical input on risk pooling, benefit design, service costs, medicine costs, usage, value, waste reduction, etc, as these matters arise”.

The minister added: “As I have said before, Bermuda is very fortunate in that we have a health system that is well developed and well supported by dedicated professionals. However, the overall lack of affordability and sustainability of our health system is alarming for this Government.”

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Published October 10, 2022 at 7:04 am (Updated October 10, 2022 at 7:04 am)

Wilson: health problems due to ‘lack of personal choice and personal responsibility’

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