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OBA calls for urgency over filling more than 50 health posts

Robin Tucker, One Bermuda Alliance health spokeswoman in the Senate (File Photograph)

The Opposition called for greater urgency in filling 54 vacant, funded, health posts as the Senate debated the Budget.

Robin Tucker, One Bermuda Alliance health spokeswoman in the Upper Chamber, said the jobs needed to be staffed to alleviate health workers who were “stressed and burnt out” by the Covid crisis.

Ms Tucker said that as “all hands had been on deck” during the pandemic, workers deserved more support.

The senator later told The Royal Gazette: “We have a number of healthcare workers who are feeling stressed and burnt out.

“Why aren’t we filling these posts so that we can alleviate those who are stressed? There have been some resource issues in various areas.”

Arianna Hodgson, Junior Minister of Finance, told the Senate that the Government was working to fill vacancies and that staff rotations were also being used.

Ms Hodgson said: “I think it is worth noting that we actually have relief community health nurses as well as service providers who would assist with the shortfall.”

She added: “We will work through the issue to best provide service to the public.”

Ms Hodgson also stated that the Mangrove Bay Clinic would not be opening for another two years, though recruits were being sought for it.

Ms Tucker asked if a cut in funding for professional services from $7,496,000 allocated last year to $3,401,000 for the coming year was “realistic” given that figures for that area have repeatedly had be revised upwards in recent years.

Ms Hodgson said the previous funding for professional services, which she said was “essentially consultants”, included money for Covid-19-related IT systems which would no longer be needed.

Ms Tucker also queried why funding for general administration had increased by $1,596,000, or 58 per cent, to $4,328,000.

The senator noted that original figure in this area for 2022-23 had needed to be revised upwards from $2,732,000 to $3,410,000.

Independent senator John Wight questioned why the Government had waited two years to present an audited financial statement for the Bermuda Hospitals Board pertaining to 2018 when the Auditor-General had signed-off on it in March 2021.

Ms Hodgson said that matter related to a different part of the Budget to the ones being debated and therefore did not address it.

Mr Wight also raised concerns about how much money has been allocated in the area of elderly and youth care.

The senator said he was concerned that the funding of $112,498,118 in patient subsidies for the indigent, aged and youth was nearly $11 million down on the $123 million spent in the previous year.

He told The Royal Gazette: “It appeared as though what was budgeted for subsidies for the aged, youth and seniors was perhaps under budgeted for 2023, because it was considerably lower than prior.

“It is a cause for concern. We will see how the year goes and see if the figures are correct. The $11 million difference couldn’t be attributed to just Covid-19.”

Ms Hodgson told the Senate: “It is worth noting that the $123 million actually includes the supplementary $15 million of additional funding that was provided to satisfy the Government commitment on the Bermuda Hospitals Board funding model … and, as such, there is not such a difference in the numbers as indicated.”

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Published March 24, 2023 at 7:52 am (Updated March 24, 2023 at 8:11 am)

OBA calls for urgency over filling more than 50 health posts

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