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Budget health cut ‘manageable’, says minister

Jeanne Atherden, Minister of Health and SeniorsPhotograph by David Skinner

Health minister Jeanne Atherden said the Ministry had made some difficult decisions to improve efficiency, but they would be able to make do with a smaller budget.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Ms Atherden noted that the budget for the Ministry of Health was cut by 13 per cent — around $23.6 million.

However, she said: “Thanks to continued modernisation, cost cutting and other efficiencies as well as reserves that can tide BHB over, we will be able to manage this reduction.

“Make no mistake, the cost of healthcare in Bermuda is high. In fact, Bermuda’s per capita healthcare costs rank second highest in the developed world, second only to the United States. We have been working to curb those costs everywhere we can.

“The National Health Accounts Report 2016 shows that Bermuda started to bend the cost-curve in 2011 and we are now seeing sustained reductions in total health expenditure. The latest report shows a one per cent decrease in total health spending since 2015.

“We are working to ensure this reduction translates to lower premiums for the population. We count on the support of private health insurers to reflect similar trends when premiums are adjusted over the next couple of months.”

Ms Atherden said the ministry was working with stakeholders to “right-size” King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, noting that the hospital will be bringing its diagnostic imaging fees “in line with other testing facilities on the island”.

And she said long-term care remains a priority for the ministry, explaining that they are working on an action plan to address concerns with education and capacity building.

Meanwhile, she said the ministry continued to work on healthcare reforms to help address chronic non-communicable diseases, but the public must also do their part.

“We all have a part to play because each one of us with a preventable chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension contributes to increased costs,” she said.

“Making healthy choices and seeing your doctor to manage these conditions better means a better quality of life and lower healthcare costs.”

Ms Atherden noted several initiatives intended to help with chronic non-communicable diseases and reduce costs, including an Enhanced Care pilot programme for persons with such illnesses, a chronic disease register, introduced insurance benefits to assist families caring for loved ones at home and considering options to allow more kidney transplants.

“I believe that we are making progress, and I believe the National Health Accounts Report demonstrates that the combined efforts are starting to bear fruit,” she said. “We will continue to use the funds available to our Ministry to inform, educate and empower people about health issues, especially among the most vulnerable populations.”