Demonstrators Protest Health Council’s HMC Decision

Demonstrators Protest Health Council’s HMC Decision, Earlier today, around 50 protesters walked from Wesley Street in Hamilton, down to the Ministry of Health’s Burnaby Street office and finally to the Cabinet Grounds to protest Bermuda Health COuncil’s decision to deny physician JJ Soares and his Burnaby Street center, Hamilton Medical Center (HMC), the ability to offer patients his services under Standard Health Benefits (SHB), which include HIP and FutureCare patients.

The dispute between HMC and the Bermuda Health Council has been ongoing since 2019, when the center first applied for official SHB approval.

In an interview with TNN’s Trevor Lindsay, Dr. Soares said that Minister of Health the Honorable Kim Wilson, JP, MP, made reference to HMC accusing the Health Council of racial discrimination. According to Dr. Soares, racial discrimination had never been any of the Center’s complaints and in his
opinion, that allegation truly underscores how little Minister Wilson “ appreciates all of the issues that we’ve been fighting for all this time.”

According to him, if HMC does not get SHB benefits continued, they will no longer be able to adequately provide urgent services to patients who are covered under HIP or FutureCare.
“ [BHC constantly blocking our options for SHB] makes no sense, but they’re set on blocking us, while [simultaneously] rolling over privileges for others from year to year without any application procedure,” Dr. Soares explained.

Despite taking the issue to the Supreme Court in April of last year and being successful, the Health Council has taken the matter to the Court of Appeals to be overturned. Dr. Soares believes
that they will be successful in overturning the decision.

“ The Court of Appeals has ordered the Health Council to look at HMC’s full-year application, which was submitted two years ago and they have not even looked at,” he said. “ There is no indication [at the moment] that our full-year application will be granted. What we see is them doubling down on their mission to block us at the expense of HIP and FutureCare patients, as well as the expense of healthcare in Bermuda.”

TNN also spoke with Minister Wilson, who released a statement on this issue last night. She reiterated her position to us today.

“ Making applications for SHB is entirely a matter for the health council, and a full council committee denied his application,” she said. “ While the matter is going through the courts, the Court of Appeal ordered that SHB may continue to be provided in the interim . . . the health council can make recommendations that a particular service be included under SHB.

That recommendation goes to the Health Minister and the Cabinet and Legislature approves [or rejects] the council’s recommendation; it has nothing to do with the Supreme Court.”