Medical Clinic reopening deadline won't be met
Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin's promise to reopen the Medical Clinic by September 8 will not happen due to the “chronic” budget crisis at Bermuda Hospitals Board.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin told MPs in the House of Assembly on March 8 that the facility would reopen within six months.
The plan was part of the One Bermuda Alliance's election platform, with the party pledging in its manifesto to “reopen the hospital medical clinic to ensure access to medical care for the most vulnerable members of our society, making sure that all our people get the care they need”.
But the Minister told The Royal Gazette this week that her self-imposed deadline to bring back the “indigent care” clinic, as it was once known, for those without health insurance, would not be met.
She said: “The economic crisis facing BHB was more chronic than we first envisaged upon assuming government, so full clinic services will not be available by September 8.
“We will, however, be able to offer introductory services, the extent of which will be advised by ministerial statement when the House resumes on September 13.”
A Health Ministry spokeswoman added: “The Bermuda Hospitals Board has provided the Ministry of Health and Seniors with a detailed business case for the opening of a Medical Clinic at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
“The Ministry is currently reviewing potential sources of funding for the Medical Clinic, as proposed. However, other options are also being explored which include establishing a clinic which is operated by staff employed by the Department of Health.
“Once all of the options have been reviewed, the Ministry will announce when and where the Medical Clinic will come into operation.”
Then Premier Ewart Brown proposed closing the Medical Clinic in 2007, arguing its patients were denied dignity by having to attend a designated clinic due to their financial status.
Activists protested the plan, claiming the clinic provided vital, readily-available services for those with financial difficulties, as well as a supportive environment.
A petition with 3,500 signatures was delivered to Dr Brown to no avail and the facility closed in July 2007.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin told MPs in March that she had instructed a BHB team to reopen it and expected it to be “operational within the next six months”. Meanwhile, BHB reported last month that unemployed residents without health insurance had accrued a $4.5 million debt at KEMH.
Campaigner Jennifer Goodwin, who was known by her maiden name of Brookes in 2007, said this week she hoped the Minister would stick by her pledge.
“I think it should reopen,” she said. “I still am adamant that it was a necessity for Bermuda and it was a bad move to close it, for all the same reasons from before.
“People needed the care that they were receiving there and a big part of it too was the social side of it. They had somewhere to go and be together and be with their friends and, some of them, family, in a space where they were welcome and safe.
“The whole idea of it being for the 'indigent' [and patients being denied dignity], all of that was completely unfounded when you actually talked to the patients.”
Fellow campaigner Diana Williams, a retired nurse, said: “I saw what a wonderful thing this clinic was for these people. They would get a service they needed in one department, under one roof.
“Nobody wanted it closed, except the Government. Obviously, I'd be over the moon if I heard it's going to open again and that so many people are going to benefit from it.”
Dr Stanley James, who worked at the clinic and now practises medicine in the US, said he appreciated that the Minister set a goal of six months to reopen the clinic but may have faced difficulties in meeting the deadline with the limited resources available.
“I don't think it's urgent to just roll it out but I think it has to be rolled out the right way,” he said. “Just [to do it] for political expediency is not necessarily medically wise or prudent. I think that it's a noble aim but it has to be weighed against other competing factors.”