Grant to clinics awarded from health budget
A grant paid to two healthcare clinics in the wake of cuts in fees for MRI and CT medical scans was funded through a vacant post, the Senate heard yesterday.
Progressive Labour Party senator Crystal Caesar said no extra money was paid to the health ministry to fund the $778,000 payment to the Brown-Darrell Clinic and Bermuda Healthcare Services.
She said: “No projects were put on hold in order to give this grant and the funding was from a vacant post, so the money was found within the health budget elsewhere.
“I think we are trying to make a narrative which is not correct. It's not that these are additional monies that could have gone somewhere else.
“These monies had been budgeted. They were moved from one area that would not have been used otherwise to rectify this particular situation.”
Ms Caesar was not able to say which post the funds came from.
She was speaking after One Bermuda Alliance senators Andrew Simons and Justin Matthias raised questions about the grant during the Budget debate on health.
Mr Simons said: “That number of $778,000 is larger than all of the other grants except for the grant to the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association. It is an enormous amount of money to have been doled out.”
He added: “Surely, $778,000 could have been spent on nurses, dentists, technical officers — there is a cost to that grant in services that were not rendered to enhance public health.”
Ms Caesar defended the Government's decision and pointed out that $1.8 million was paid to Bermuda Hospitals Board, which was also affected by the fee cuts.
“The fact of the matter is that both of these entities, the hospital and the Brown-Darrell Clinic provide a very essential service for the Bermuda community as a whole.
“Because the fees in a particular area were decreased, which did not make either entity viable in those particular areas, a grant was determined and given, not through a supplemental, to these entities so that they could continue to service the Bermuda community.”
She added: “The $778,000 is for June 1 to March 31 of 2018. There was no supplementary required for this.”
The Government was asked yesterday what post the cash came from, but there was no reply by the time of press.
Ms Caesar added that a $100,000 allocation in the grants for the fiscal year 2018/19 was a “place holder” that had not been earmarked for the Brown-Darrell Clinic.
The Bermuda Health Council reduced the fees that could be charged for MRI and CT scans last year.
Ewart Brown, the former premier and owner of the Brown-Darrell Clinic, said the cuts left the business unsustainable and the CT unit was shut on January 31.
Ms Caesar also announced that new health insurance rates and medical fees would not be ready by April 1 and would instead be implemented by June 1.
She said: “This is due to the long-needed conversion of the BHB fees to a rational methodology to standardise fee levels at an internationally accepted standard, based on the relative value of procedures. We are undertaking this initiative as we speak.”
Ms Caesar added: “I can advise at this time, however, that while the impact of the new relative value unit or RVU fee structure, will be revenue neutral for BHB, we anticipate an increase to the standard premium rate due to continued increases in utilisation of hospital services.”
Mr Simons said: “That really undermines the argument that was used earlier this year that we should have used that methodology, if it's not ready now.”