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Plans for healthcare pushed to voters

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A new Progressive Labour Party administration would introduce an amended health plan after the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the island's finances, the Government said.

The PLP announced in its platform last week that the programme would be launched in collaboration with the BermudaFirst advisory group and deliver access to “affordable universal healthcare for all”.

A government spokeswoman said later: “The revised Bermuda Health Plan mentioned in the governing party's platform will be different than the one originally presented.

“This is a result of not only the consultation, but also due to the change in circumstances in the Bermuda economy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Government, if re-elected, looks forward to working with BermudaFirst to implement holistic health reform that has technology at its core to reduce Bermuda's healthcare costs.”

A plan outlined last year was the subject of a four-month consultation and town hall meetings.

The Government said that Bermuda spent $723 million a year on healthcare.

It added, in response to questions last year from the public, which werepublished online: “As this is much higher than other countries and we are plagued by numerous inefficiencies and duplication, the intent of the reforms is to streamline the system so that we use existing funds more efficiently to cover necessary care.”

Catherine Kempe, a One Bermuda Alliance General Election candidate, said this month: “The One Bermuda Alliance believes very firmly in universal health coverage, meaning that every single person who is Bermudian should have access to healthcare.

“Unfortunately, that's not what we're seeing currently.”

Ms Kempe claimed that the plan proposed earlier by the Government failed to address that and said that coverage was “really still going to be based off of employment”.

She said: “We don't actually have a unified patient identifier number, so we do not know what the true number is that is underinsured or uninsured in our country.”

Ms Kempe, the OBA's health spokeswoman, added that it was important to “get back to the data ... before moving down such a massive project”.

She said: “We need to know how many people are we really talking about that don't have coverage and do we throw out the current model, as was proposed in part by the national health plan and the Bermuda Health Plan by the Progressive Labour Party, for a small per cent?

“Or can we find better solutions to help cover those people to ensure that they have that coverage also?

“We then need to also take a look back and say, what is the true cost of healthcare?”

The OBA said in asocial contract ahead of this week's General Election that it would: “Ensure that every Bermudian has health insurance coverage that is evidence-based, managed by independent professionals and not by the Government as per the Burt administration's proposed, but now on hold, unified scheme.”

Its plans included the creation of a “National Physical Fitness Programme to encourage wellbeing, sound health, exercise and personal diet”.

The OBA added that it would “legislate that insurance plans that offer mental health coverage must cover it in the same way as medical coverage and not discriminate or offer lesser coverage for mental health services”.

Henry Dowling, the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association president, said last week that the disjointed nature of the country's medical system brought challenges.

He explained: “We have multiple silos of medicine within such a small island which is, I think, a huge factor of not only the cost of medicine in Bermuda but also the inefficiency of medicine in Bermuda.

“We have the hospital which acts as its own medical body, we have the private medical doctors, we have the public health community which is run under the government clinics — they act as their own body.

“Even the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute itself acts as its own separate entity. Trying to get patients' information even if I'm their own physician tends to be quite difficult under the current system.

“It just leads to the patient getting caught in the middle.”

Dr Dowling said that Patients First, a group that aimed to inform the public about the pros and cons of the Government's plan, and the BMDA wanted “to be a part of any aspect of trying to make the healthcare system better”.

ThePLP Platform 2020 explained: “Designed with technology at its core to maximise efficiencies and data-driven care, the integrated healthcare model will allow the public and private sectors to work together to reduce Bermuda's healthcare spend, while improving healthcare outcomes.

“This will reduce the dependency on the hospital and focus more on prevention as well as primary and community care.”

It said that the party would “protect against a second wave of the coronavirus” by expanding the island's testing capacity and launching a new testing laboratory at the Bermuda College.

Other pledges included: “Increase support for training of Bermudians as community nurses.

“Increase funding for mental health services, in terms of both physical infrastructure and training.”

The platform added that accomplishments from 2017 to 2020 included the establishment of an Ageing Well Committee, amendments to residential care and nursing home legislation designed to raise standards and the introduction of local radiation therapy coverage for HIP and FutureCare users.

BermudaFirst's Future State report, released in September 2019, called for changes leading to a “patient-centric, outcome-based billing model ... focused on value not price” and regulation of healthcare providers.

Concerns raised by the Bermuda Healthcare Advocacy Group this month included the “high costs of Bermuda Hospitals Board fifth-floor staff salaries”.

The Royal Gazette revealed in June that the BHB's top five executives earned almost $2 million between them last year.

The BHAG added: “We have a good working relationship with the hospital and would like to have the same with the government health ministry.”

The Free Democratic Movement said last week it was working to release a platform that would include its “vision for healthcare”.

The attendant video was shot on September 9, before any party platform had been released

Campaigning voice: Henry Dowling, the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association president, acknowledges the challenges (File photograph)

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Published September 29, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated September 29, 2020 at 9:08 am)

Plans for healthcare pushed to voters

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