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We must modernise, says BHB boss

The Bermuda Hospitals Board is working to right the ship despite significant financial challenges, according to chairman Jonathan Brewin.

Meanwhile, BHB also acknowledged they are likely to be in debt by the end of the fiscal year despite a series of cost cutting efforts including a ten percent budget cut, vacancy freezes and reducing renewed contracts.

According to the BHB Quarterly Report to the Community, released yesterday, year-to-date revenue as of September 30 had fallen by more than $13.8 million compared to last year while total expenses fell by $3.2 million.

The report cites a reduction of outpatient revenue, combined with the withdrawal of the Geriatric subsidy used to fund the Continuing Care Unit as the major factors for the decline in revenue.

The board announced yesterday that it would be closing the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David's by the end of the month, saying the facility costs the board around $250,000 a year and treats a small number of patients with minor injuries.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Brewin said: “There are clearly financial challenges that are forcing us to look at what services we deliver but the environment is also proving to be an important catalyst to modernise the hospital. We are seeking new, more efficient ways of working and establishing the highest standards of modern governance to better serve our country's needs.

“The entire healthcare system in Bermuda needs to be modernised alongside BHB in order to provide safe, high quality healthcare services that are sustainable and appropriately used.”

In February, Auditor General Heather Jacobs-Matthews contacted BHB CEO Venetta Symonds expressing “grave concerns” uncovered while conducting the audit of BHB's annual financial statements, recommending the Department of Internal Audit conduct a review of the board's operations.

She additionally suggested that BHB's chief financial officer Delia Basden be placed on administrative leave pending the results of the report.

The BHB confirmed Ms Basden is still employed by the board, but said it would not breach employee confidentiality by commenting on the details or status of her employment.

The review was completed in August, revealing “serious deficiencies” in BHB's corporate governance framework which it warned could cause a lack of effective management oversight and accountability within BHB. It also found “material weaknesses” in internal controls.

Mr Brewin said: “We fully accept the findings. The recommendations, which are being implemented in full, will modernise and strengthen our internal controls.

“We will be reporting back to the Department of Internal Audit on our progress in December, so I can assure you there remains a high level of accountability. We will face more difficult decisions ahead, and change is required both at BHB and within the overall healthcare system to provide a safe, high quality healthcare service that people can afford and trust.”

He said the BHB has over the years evolved from a cottage hospital to a large district general hospital, but may not have improved and built on the organisations internal controls and standards accordingly.

“Yes, we are challenged to put into place some sensible and realistic recommendations put forward by the Department of Internal Audit, and I can assure you we are going to be monitoring that as a board, monitoring how the senior management team put together all those different to-dos into place.

“We have to learn from our mistakes in the past, and we have to go forward knowing exactly which areas of concern we need to address.”

Ms Symonds said that the financial situation at the hospital is very serious, but added: “Bermuda should have a lot of confidence in the fact that we know what our issues are, and we are taking every step to make sure that we do what we need to do.”

Modernising: BHB chairman, Jonathan Brewin, and CEO Venetta Symonds discuss the Bermuda Hospitals Board Quarterly Report. (Photo by David Skinner)

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Published November 01, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated November 01, 2013 at 12:19 am)

We must modernise, says BHB boss

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