Planning pains for walk-in clinic
A proposed walk-in medical clinic in Hamilton has been refused planning permission by the Development Applications Board.
However, Marico Thomas, chief executive officer of Bermuda Medical Specialties Group, said yesterday that the plans for the Health Express Urgent Care clinic, which have cost close to $1 million, were approved in February — but he was told he had to resubmit the application because of an administrative error.
Mr Thomas added that the company was told “in no uncertain terms” it could continue work on the Reid Street building — but planning permission was denied in June.
He said: “It was supposed to open on July 1. We spent the money and then we were held back because of something that is not of our doing.
“There is pain. There is pain and aggravation.”
The company proposed a change of use for 5 Reid Street, which was categorised as retail space, to a walk-in clinic.
Mr Thomas said the company had spent $400,000 on renovations to the former P-Tech electronics store and had committed another $500,000 on staff for the clinic.
He added that the delay meant that two Bermudians who would have been hired were not.
He said: “There is a massive hole in our bank book that needs filling and this was not planned.”
Mr Thomas said that despite the problems, he hoped the clinic would be able to open its doors to patients inside the next two weeks.
Blackhawk Consulting, part of Mr Thomas's business group, filed a second application on behalf of BMSG in April.
But the DAB's June sitting rejected the plans after they found the proposal contravened the City of Hamilton Plan 2015 because it did not contribute to the “vitality and interest of the principal shopping area”.
The meeting's minutes said: “The technical officer cited the example of nail boutique Polished and noted while this is not a retail use, it does add vitality to the area and encourages movement of pedestrians around the city, which is better than vacant spaces.
“The general consensus was the doctor's office should not be fronting on Reid Street and the wrong location had been chosen for this use.”
Board members also highlighted the risk of traffic congestion if patients were dropped off outside the clinic.
They added if pedestrianisation of parts of Reid Street was to be introduced, the clinic would face problems.
The minutes said: “The board inquired about the pedestrianisation of Reid Street and commented the approval of a clinic in the area would go against pedestrianisation as the clinic would argue that drop-offs are required for its business.
“The technical officer advised she could not speak to this, but access will always be required along Reid Street for delivery to existing retailers and for emergency access purposes.”
BMSG already runs a medical centre on the third floor of Reid Hall, also on Reid Street, with a mix of full-time doctors and visiting specialists intended to offer “a comprehensive primary care GP and specialist physician service focused on longevity and quality of life”.
Mr Thomas said the new addition was designed to meet public demand and ease the pressure on the emergency room at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
He added: “From what I have heard, the ER has a three-hour wait. Sometimes it goes up to four.
“It isn't just Bermuda's ER — the average wait in the US is three to four hours. The interesting thing is 50 per cent of those visits can be treated somewhere else.”
Mr Thomas said the clinic aimed to limit waiting time to less than 45 minutes, would be open seven days a week and from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.
He added the clinic also planned to use a high-tech electronic medical records system to improve efficiency and treatment.
Mr Thomas said: “Bermuda has incredible doctors, but the system that we have ... sometimes we have paper records, duplication of information, contradictory information and that all has to be managed.”