Bermuda to face a ‛tsunami’ of chronic disease
Bermuda could face mounting costs from a high incidence of chronic disease as a lasting effect of the pandemic.
The Minister of Health today leads discussion on a ministry that already eats up a larger portion of public spending than any other.
At nearly $195 million of the billion dollars the Government will spend in the coming fiscal year, the Ministry of Health budget is just shy of 17 per cent of the total.
During the debate, legislators should finally hear detail of the Government’s long-promised healthcare reform, how more people will have access to more affordable and better healthcare and how the healthcare dollar is going to be spent more efficiently.
It comes, however, as questions are emerging as to how changes already made to healthcare disbursements may be failing the very people they intend to help.
It comes as diabetes experts expect an explosion in new cases, locally and globally.
It also comes as public funds to help purchase critical medication through the Bermuda Diabetes Association have been shrinking.
Diabetes educator Sara Bosch de Noya, SRD, told The Royal Gazette that the number of people needing help paying for medication tripled from one year to the next.
She said: "I’m talking about the most critical medicine. But that is now getting harder with reduced subsidies.
“People faced hard times with the pandemic, some out of work. Some just can’t afford to pay for their pills. We can’t help with everything, but we try to help with the most critical of medications.
“It would generally cost us somewhere in the region of $60,000 annually, helping, in many cases, HIP and FutureCare patients with their medication. But we saw that rise upwards of $190,000 for the year.”
“People talk the talk, about prevention being important. The consequences of patients not being able to take their diabetes medication is not just physically devastating to them, but financially devastating to the entire healthcare system. The consequences are huge.
“So, we were hoping to be able to maintain that source of funding. But there is a burden on preventive healthcare right now.”
“The pandemic brought about changes in lifestyle. People are stressed and they tend to eat differently when they are stressed. They spent more time at home and too much time sitting. This affects children and adults.
“We know that there is a global ‘tsunami’ coming, the implications of the pandemic, which will elevate chronic health concerns and chronic disease.
“The gains we were making in terms of early education for diabetes will be swamped by the pandemic’s effects.
“It is globally anticipated the numbers are going up. I was on the International Diabetes Federation webinar last year with other speakers from around the world discussing this.
“We normally see one or two children in Bermuda diagnosed with diabetes a year. We saw three or four children just before Christmas.
“We don’t know exactly what’s coming, but we have to be prepared and we are not going the right way.
”Healthcare allocations will have to be really scrutinised to see how we can help in education and prevention.
“There were two nutritionists at the department of health. One retires and is not replaced. The diabetes centre at the hospital used to have four staff, but they are dwindling there. Of course the diabetes nurse was last year busy doing (Covid-19) vaccines, instead of diabetes care.
“We have to look at the foundation of what we have on the island to fight this looming healthcare crisis.”
The subsidies used to help pay medication costs for HIP and FutureCare patients are paid out through the Bermuda Health Council’s Innovation Programme, through money collected from the Mutual Reinsurance Fund.
The fund comes from a fee that is legislated annually by the government, and payable by every employee and non-working spouse with active health insurance coverage.
In 2019, the fee increased by more than 225 per cent, in order to change the funding mechanism of the BHB from a fee-for-service model to a $330 million government block grant.
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