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January: Prison officers win health insurance legal battle

Court victory: corrections officers are all smiles after their legal victory over Government Employee Health Insurance contributions (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Bermuda Government suffered a defeat after prison officers won a Supreme Court battle against changes that required them to make health insurance payments.

The Prison Officers Association claimed that its members were exempt from making contributions through their contracts, which have been in existence for 50 years.

Officers said that the legal action, which came after negotiations dating back to 2016, could have been avoided if more had been done to tackle problems at Westgate prison for staff and inmates.

Timothy Seon, the chairman of the POA, and Thad Hollis, its lead negotiator, said in a joint statement: “The Government of Bermuda fought vehemently to remove contractual benefits of government employees.

They added it was a “determined battle due to the narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness of this present government administration to achieve an unfair outcome by any means necessary”.

The two added: “Had the Government of Bermuda put as much effort into remedying the adverse work and housing conditions of our officers and incarcerated population, as suggested by the POA through the negotiating process, then this court process would not have been necessary.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said after the judgment was handed down that he respected the decision and would examine it and its applications.

He added: “It is always my desire, as the minister with responsibility for the Department of Corrections, to ensure that we have a strong plan with regard to our corrections facilities, as well as addressing the concerns of all corrections staff and the welfare of the inmates.

“We have had some successes in some areas. We have implemented strategic action plans aimed at strengthening security at our facilities and we have worked towards improving the infrastructure at our facilities.”

The under-fire chairman of the Progressive Labour Party, Damon Wade, confirmed he would quit.

His decision came after a unanimous vote of no confidence was passed against him and party executives demanded his resignation.

Controversy erupted after he claimed at a central committee meeting that he was owed a place in the PLP “friends and family policy”.

The meeting was recorded and posted on social media.

The Ministry of Health raised the coronavirus threat level from “guarded” to “elevated” and said that the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit was “in a state of heightened preparedness for a public health emergency”.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said: “Bermuda’s routine public health surveillance activities have been increased, through well-established collaborations between the ESU and the hospital, physicians’ offices and the customs and immigration departments.”

The news was one of the first indications the island received of a pandemic that would lead to months of lockdowns, travel restrictions, quarantines and social distancing.

The husband of a young mother who had terminal cancer diagnosed days after their son was born won $1.9 million in damages from the Bermuda Hospitals Board for medical negligence.

Chief Justice Narinder Hargun ruled that Kemar Maybury deserved the award because his wife, Latifa, would have been “treatable for cure” for colorectal cancer if an emergency-room doctor at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had not failed to detect a rectal tumour, and if the hospital had not failed to ensure that faxed medical notes were received by the patient’s GP.

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Published December 31, 2020 at 7:56 am (Updated December 30, 2020 at 10:05 pm)

January: Prison officers win health insurance legal battle

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