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Lawyers respond to raids

Police raided two of Ewart Brown’s businesses on Saturday

Lawyers for Ewart Brown launched an immediate response to the police raids which took place at his two private clinics on Saturday.

They successfully applied for an emergency hearing before a Supreme Court judge after officers entered Bermuda Healthcare Services in Paget and the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s and seized property.

Prior to the raids, the Bermuda Police Service obtained a special procedure warrant from a magistrate to enter both clinics and seize material likely to be relevant evidence, including “cost forms” showing information about diagnostic tests ordered for patients between January 2003 and December 2015.

The warrant named less than a handful of patients whose records were being sought by detectives.

The police’s application for the warrant was made under a section of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 2006 which allows officers to obtain access to confidential records in certain circumstances, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect an indictable offence has been committed.

The warrant, seen by this newspaper but with the names withheld, listed the offences suspected to have been committed as corrupt practices, conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

This newspaper understands that an emergency Supreme Court hearing took place before Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman early on Saturday evening, at which the police were not represented. The BPS did have a lawyer at a later hearing that same evening.

Counsel for both sides appeared again before Mr Justice Hellman at a hearing which lasted all day Monday. The judge made several orders at the hearings, though none have been made public.

This newspaper understands that the legality of police officers removing patients’ medical files from the clinics formed much of the discussion at the three hearings and is dealt with in the judge’s orders. We requested information about the proceedings from the Supreme Court Registrar on Tuesday but did not receive a response by press time last night.

Bermuda Medical Doctors Association said yesterday that anything that undermined patient confidentiality was “extremely concerning”.

President Annabel Fountain said she was “unable to comment regarding the specific circumstances related to the police raids and we do not have confirmation that any records confiscated relate to patient care”.

Dr Fountain added: “However, patient confidentiality is at the core of medical ethics and anything that undermines this or has the potential to do so is extremely concerning.

“Confidentiality is central to trust between doctors and patients. Without assurances about confidentiality, patients may be reluctant to seek medical attention or to give doctors the information they need in order to provide good care.

“In our small community, this confidence in the doctor-patient relationship is imperative. Only with patient permission or court order for ‘specifically named records’ should anyone other than the physician or the patient have access to health information of any patient.”

It is understood that worried patients have been contacting the Bermuda Health Council, the island’s regulatory health body, to voice concern about the possible seizure of their private medical files from the two clinics.

Tawanna Wedderburn, the council’s chief executive officer, said on Tuesday: “The health council is always concerned about patient confidentiality. Given the sensitivities and legal implications of this matter, we are unable to comment any further at this time.”

Former Premier Dr Brown, in a statement released on Monday, vowed to challenge the seizure of data, saying he would take “every step legally available” to secure patients’ records.

A police spokesman said: “Significant steps have been taken to protect the confidential nature of the information and to ensure that patient safety is not jeopardized in any way.”

The weekend raids followed the arrest last May of Mahesh Reddy, the medical director at Bermuda Healthcare Services, on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. Dr Reddy was released on police bail and has not been charged with any offence.

Dr Brown has said the targeting of his businesses and of Dr Reddy was an “extension of the witch-hunt that has followed me for years”. The Royal Gazetterevealed in July that a police inquiry into allegations of corruption against him had so far cost more than $2.2 million.

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