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Moniz questions $600,000 payment to Brown

The Opposition has attacked the Government over payments made to Ewart Brown after medical imaging fees were slashed.

Trevor Moniz, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, questioned in the House of Assembly whether the payments from Ministry of Health funds had been a “payoff” for Dr Brown's support for the Progressive Labour Party during the 2017 election campaign.

The ministry agreed in December to pay his two clinics a total of $600,000.

Dr Brown declined to comment yesterday.

A separate payment has been agreed for the Bermuda Hospitals Board, but Kim Wilson, the health minister, said the amount would not be known until the end of March.

Diagnostic imaging, which covers high-tech medical scans from MRIs to CT scans, were targeted by the Bermuda Health Council last year as part of the regulator's attempt to cut mounting healthcare costs.

Dr Brown said in January that the cutbacks in fees, some as high as 87 per cent, had hit his medical practices hard enough to mean the closure of the CT scanner service at the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith's by the end of that month.

Mr Moniz told MPs during Friday's Budget debate that the payouts to Dr Brown were “irresponsible expenditures which are not budgeted for”.

He said the Government was “paying a large sum of money” but that it was “never clear why these payments were being made”.

Mr Moniz said that Dr Brown had shut down the CT unit but “the Government went ahead and paid him anyway and we could not see the quid pro quo”.

He added: “There is no contractual obligation. He is not giving you anything back, so why are you paying him?

“The minister said she was intending to raise health rates on the scans in the coming year, but that's another matter.

“People out there in the public want to know, is the payment to Dr Brown a quid pro quo? Was Dr Brown a major donor to the PLP election campaign, and is this some sort of payoff to him?”

The Royal Gazette asked the Government for comment yesterday, but no response was received by press time.

The Shadow Attorney-General's remarks came after details of a legal threat levelled against the ministry last year by doctors opposed to the fee cuts were revealed.

One doctor, J.J. Soares of Hamilton Medical Centre, confirmed yesterday that he had been among the group that threatened a constitutional challenge to the reductions.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health confirmed receipt of “a letter before action in October 2017 pertaining to judicial review of the Bermuda Hospitals Board (Hospital Fees) Amendment Regulations 2017, with respect to the reduction in fees chargeable for diagnostic imaging under the standard health benefit”.

She said that “several parties” had been involved, but the matter was resolved without legal proceedings.

She added: “As it was a legal matter, there will be no further details provided.”

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House debate: Trevor Moniz

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Published February 28, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 28, 2018 at 4:12 pm)

Moniz questions $600,000 payment to Brown

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