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Union stalwarts focus on health services

The first president of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress has said that improving domestic health services would be an important factor in achieving affordable, accessible healthcare on the island.

Betty Christopher, who headed the union from 1998 to 2002, was talking to The Royal Gazette at the beginning of the BTUC march in recognition of International Workers' Day.

The union, this year, made excessive healthcare costs the theme.

Ms Christopher said that if Bermuda had better provisions for healthcare on home turf, people would be less reliant on costly overseas services.

“There are so many people without healthcare and so many people who are having to go overseas for treatment and it is very costly to the families — not only the healthcare but, also the additional expenses,” she said.

“It would be good if we were in a position to keep our patients in Bermuda rather than have them travel overseas.

“We would need to improve the medical facilities. The hospital is only able to support so many people because of the shortage of beds and also the professional surgeons and medical professionals.”

Another union stalwart, Leleath Bailey, who was president of the Bermuda Public Service Union from 1994 to 1998, said that if it was not for various helping agencies and services, many would not be able to cope with health costs.

“Today, I am here in support regarding the healthcare situation in Bermuda. We need accessible, affordable healthcare for our seniors. If we didn't have good support systems such as Financial Assistance and the Bermuda Housing Corporation, that can subsidise people who are most vulnerable, then I don't know where those people would stand for healthcare in Bermuda.

“A lot of our seniors cannot afford to go into rest homes so now we are looking at keeping our seniors at home and have the Government subsidise healthcare providers.

“I would say we are in a crisis because the cost to our people in rest homes is something like $5,000 a month or more — not everyone can afford that. I am hoping that the trade unions will look seriously into this and do what is best for our seniors and I am 110 per cent behind them.

“The Government does have a role to play as well and I am hoping that they will work along with the unions in solving this problem we have. I have faith in the PLP, definitely.”

Ms Bailey understood measures to have all government insurance schemes come under one umbrella and hoped it would not result in diminished benefits.

“I am a retiree presently on government health insurance and I believe the GEHI [Government Employee Health Insurance], Future Care and HIP [Health Insurance Plan] could be put together as one. I am wondering what is going to happen and that no benefits are lost with the transformation.”

Active women: Betty Christopher, left, and Leleath Bailey at May Day March (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

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Published May 02, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated May 02, 2018 at 7:22 am)

Union stalwarts focus on health services

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