The numbers don’t add up
During the Budget debate for the Ministry of Health, it was revealed by the minister that cash reserves for the hospital have dwindled to $16 million, which equates to six days' worth of funding to run the operation.
Normally a hospital would like 60 to 90 days of cash reserves. Last year, upon questioning from the Opposition, it was revealed reserves had dropped to $28 million.
The financial position of the hospital is in a precarious position. A quick look at some numbers and the situation is made very clear:
• The hospital accounts for 32 per cent of the Ministry of Health’s budget
• It is 14 per cent of the government budget
• It receives a block grant of $330 million from the Mutual Reinsurance Fund
• Financial reporting is unacceptably late with the last annual report available for the hospital being 2015
• Government provided an additional $11.1 million in funding this financial year
• Government granted a $6.3 million “concession”, as stated by the Minister of Health during the Budget debate
• In spite of that, the hospital was in a deficit position last year, as stated by the minister in Parliament
• In the 2022-23 Budget book, the guarantee for the Bermuda Hospitals Board was raised from $276.8 million to $787.7 million, an increase of more than $510 million!
Our only hospital provides good service to the people of Bermuda, and it has done a commendable job of dealing with the pandemic. We cannot thank our healthcare professionals enough for their dedication and commitment through a very challenging time.
However, the financial position continues to deteriorate under the Progressive Labour Party government and steps need to be taken to rectify this immediately!
This situation is made even more concerning by the lack of timely reporting, which is critical in consideration of hospital business. How could the Government prepare and Parliament review a budget without financial reports and accurate information? I raised this concern in Parliament last year during the debate and did so again this year.
The massive increase in the guarantee, without an appropriate explanation, heightens the concern.
It is worth remembering that the public-private partnership agreement for the new acute care wing has never been made public, in spite of repeated calls to do so. It is way past time that it sees the light of day owing to the revelation of the massive increase in the guarantee.
The PLP government to date has failed to address many of our pressing healthcare challenges such as the high cost of healthcare, details of universal health coverage and the alarming position of hospital finances.
This cannot continue and must be addressed.
• Michael Dunkley is the Shadow Minister for National Security and Health, and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)