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Health ministry warns of long road to reform

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Ministry of Health has hit back after the head of the Bermuda Health Council called out the island’s health databases and the legislation surrounding provision as out of date.

A ministry spokeswoman agreed that the ministry’s data collection system needed updates — but admitted that it would be difficult to integrate into the ministry’s wider healthcare system.

The comment came after Ricky Brathwaite, the chief executive of the BHC, said during a Chamber of Commerce meeting last week that Bermuda’s healthcare legislation was in desperate need of an update.

The ministry responded that plans to implement universal health coverage would impact three government departments and two quangos in order to adapt to healthcare and legislative reform.

The spokeswoman also promised that several amendments to the Bermuda Health Council Act 2024 would go ahead this year, which would improve the BHeC’s ability to collect data from healthcare providers.

She added: “Legislation is drafted for a variety of reasons and to achieve numerous policy objectives.

“However, over time, the legislation can be overtaken by events and innovations, and impacted by new priorities.

“When that happens, amendments are tabled for Legislature consideration. The Public Health Act 1949, for example, has been amended more than 35 times.

“Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government reaffirmed its dedication to universal health coverage but, of necessity, Ministry of Health resources were directed towards crafting laws aimed at controlling infectious diseases.”

Mr Brathwaite’s remarks on obstacles to achieving universal healthcare warned that the Health Insurance Act 1970; Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1979; Bermuda Hospitals Board Act 1970; and Bermuda Health Council Act 2004 all needed attention.

However, Mr Brathwaite added that “the list actually goes much further”.

The spokeswoman said that the ministry created the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment Report alongside the National Digital Health Strategy to help implement universal healthcare.

She added that the ministry had mapped three integrated care pathways towards universal healthcare: one for the first 1,000 days of life; one for acute adult mental health; and one covering chronic kidney disease.

“The JSNA highlighted the need for improved data collection to bolster the ministry’s determination to make evidenced-based decisions.

“Certainly, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s transition to a new electronic medical records system, along with the many service providers who have also developed electronic records systems, speaks to a willingness to embrace digitalisation.

“The difficulty lies in establishing a governance structure and implementation plan to ensure seamless collaboration among all components of our healthcare system.

“Consequently, National Digital Health is an ongoing project for the UHC programme management office, aiming to integrate and co-ordinate various elements for efficient operation.”

The spokeswoman added: “Regarding the roll-out of universal health coverage, introducing and revising legislation will be necessary to align with confirmed governance structures and implementation pathways.

“This process will likely impact three government departments and two quangos to varying degrees, as they adapt to healthcare system reforms and legislative adjustments.

“Updates are starting, however. The minister tabled a Bill entitled Bermuda Health Council Amendment Act 2024 just before the Easter break, which will be debated when the House resumes on May 3.

“This Bill addresses and improves the Health Council’s ability to request and receive data from health service providers and insurers to assist with evidenced-based decision-making.

“Also, in the next session, the minister will be tabling legislation to support the licensing of health service providers.

“This involves additional amendments to the Bermuda Health Council Act.”

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Published April 25, 2024 at 7:50 am (Updated April 25, 2024 at 7:09 am)

Health ministry warns of long road to reform

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