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Relief for Soares after SHB approval

JJ Soares, medical director of the Hamilton Medical Centre (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An urgent care and medical imaging facility in Hamilton has been approved to be included in the standard health benefit five years after its initial application.

The Hamilton Medical Centre on Burnaby Street announced yesterday afternoon that it had been granted SHB approval by the Bermuda Health Council on the recommendation of its Standard Health Benefit committee.

JJ Soares, medical director of the facility, said he was delighted by the decision, which was made official on August 9.

Dr Soares said: “I have always believed that everyone should have equal access to our state-of-the-art medical facility. Studies have repeatedly shown that newer scanning equipment is safer and produces higher quality images.

“I would like to thank the international committee for objectively considering our application and for agreeing with our perspective, which contrasted with most all prior recommendations from the Bermuda Health Council.

“Now that SHB approval has been awarded, HIP and FutureCare patients, in addition to the privately insured, can have access to our more up-to-date imaging equipment at no out-of-pocket charge, as has been the case for most all other imaging centres on island.”

Dr Soares also thanked the more than 7,000 people who signed a petition urging the BHeC to grant the facility SHB approval, stating: “It has been a five-year struggle to communicate the benefits of using newer diagnostic imaging equipment, so I am relieved that this is now over.

“It is unfortunate that it has had to take this long.”

A spokesman for the health council said last night: “The Bermuda Health Council acknowledges the approval of Standard Health Benefit status for Hamilton Medical Centre.

“We extend our appreciation to the international volunteers who served on our Standard Health Benefit review committee.”

He added: “The council is committed to addressing the challenges of our health care system with a proactive approach.

“We recognise the areas in which the SHB programme may need improvements and will take measures to address these issues in conjunction with our ongoing Universal Health Coverage consultation.”

HMC originally applied for permission to offer services including medical scans under the SHB in 2019, but the BHeC refused the application at that time.

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

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden quashed the BHeC decision and ordered the approval of Dr Soares’s application, but the council 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 HMC’s application.

A spokeswoman for HMC said that the BHeC reviewed the application in May.

“Following a robust and extensive presentation by the HMC legal team, which included an interview with medical director Dr Soares, the committee shared its recommendations with the Bermuda Health Council,” the spokeswoman said.

“The results were considered by the BHeC’s Board and, on August 9, SHB approval was granted to HMC-Burnaby Urgent Care and Medical Imaging.”

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Published August 24, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated August 24, 2023 at 9:57 am)

Relief for Soares after SHB approval

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