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Doctor calls on minister to include clinic in SHB

J J Soares, medical director of the Hamilton Medical Centre (Photograph supplied)

A doctor has urged Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, to help to ensure that the Hamilton Medical Centre is included in standard health benefits by the Bermuda Health Council.

J J Soares, the medical director of the facility, said an online petition launched last year in favour of SHB approval for the facility had received 7,334 signatures.

“I call on the minister, in accordance with the Health Council Act, to rein in the Health Council, which has during their tenure, made a series of poor decisions; decisions with deference perhaps to influences other than those which serve patient interests,” Dr Soares said.

“The council and the Government have clearly not listened to me for four years. Hopefully they will listen to the people.”

In 2019 the HMC applied for permission to offer services, including medical scans, under the SHB, which would allow FutureCare or HIP patients coverage for diagnostic services, but the BHeC refused the application.

A BHeC appeal panel upheld that decision in 2020 and Dr Soares appealed to the Supreme Court on the ground that the BHeC had acted unfairly and unreasonably.

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden quashed the BHeC decision and ordered the approval of Dr Soares’s application, but the BHeC brought the dispute to the Court of Appeal.

In November 2021, the Court of Appeal delivered an interlocutory — or provisional — ruling stating that the appeal panel’s decision could not stand because of a possibility of bias.

But the court also said that the appeal judges also found it was not appropriate for Mr Justice Mussenden “to take it upon himself to substitute his own decision for that of the September 2020 appeal panel”, ordering BHeC to formally review the HMC’s application.

In a statement, Dr Soares said removing the facility from the SHB would disadvantage HIP and FutureCare patients.

He claimed that some scanners on the island were outdated and that it would make more sense for the BHeC to focus on removing that equipment rather than blocking access to the HMC.

He added that HMC had requested an “urgent meeting” to discuss the situation with the minister, but that they had been referred back to the BHeC.

Dr Soares said that the Health Council Act 2004 allows the minister to give the council general directions to be followed “in the performance of its functions as appear to the minister to be necessary in the public interest”.

Ricky Brathwaite, the CEO of the BHeC, said this afternoon that the body does not comment on pending applications.

The Ministry of Health has also been approached for a comment.

• This story has been updated with a response from the BHeC.

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Published May 09, 2023 at 7:40 am (Updated May 09, 2023 at 7:40 am)

Doctor calls on minister to include clinic in SHB

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