The government’s promise of healthcare reform has been on the horizon for several years and although the public has heard phrases like “promises made are promises kept” this essential reform initiative is yet to materialize.
Since around 2011, the PLP has touted the need for healthcare reform and apart from five years when it was the Opposition, it is fair to ask what tangible solutions can the people of Bermuda expect that will bring about significant healthcare reform?
Putting 2011 aside, in 2021 the Ministry of Health established a Universal Health Coverage Steering Committee to develop the roadmap for strengthening Bermuda’s healthcare system. Despite there being a general update to stakeholders in March 2023, basic questions such as which entity has been identified to agree the reform starting point, the timeframe for agreeing the terms to get started, and has a financial model been determined remains unclear. It is hoped that an update on these and other foundational questions will be forthcoming after this month’s meeting since several months have passed since the latest update.
A Joint Strategic Needs Assessment Committee was tasked a while ago with reviewing our population profile and the social determinants of health, our health behavior and risk factors, causes of ill-health and death, vulnerable groups (including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities), and our healthcare services.
Health Minister Kim Wilson said that she expected the Committee’s work to be completed by early April 2023 so as we are nearing July what is the status of the Assessment Committee’s findings?
Despite warnings in 2019 by the One Bermuda Alliance and health insurers that the block funding model would not work and that it would do nothing to address the high cost of healthcare, Minister Wilson said that the hospital would be held “more accountable” in return for receiving the funding. How can the public be assured of this when the accountability standard did not even extend to the government as they failed to meet their own self-imposed obligations leaving the hospital short of funds by current estimates of around $15 million?
So, a question is when did the government recognize that it would be unable to honour its commitment and what is it doing about it now to assure that it meets its full obligation to the hospital in the future? Moreover, what will it do to ensure that the hospital meets its commitments as well, particularly as it relates to delivering timely audited financial statements? Perhaps the government should consider imposing significant financial disincentives to encourage the Bermuda Hospital’s Board C-Suite to uphold its reporting requirements.
American Author Cassandra Clare said, “Making promises you can’t keep is worse than making no promises at all.”
Bermuda does not need more promises for health reform but actionable steps that do more than shift pieces around for short-term effect that reinforces the status quo rather than dismantling the pieces of a broken system.
Bermuda needs a healthcare system that assures quality care for all residents, that is affordable, transparent, and sustainable. The government should proactively keep the public abreast of steps taken towards achieving healthcare reform not only because it helps manage the public’s expectations, but it also helps keeps the government that works for the people accountable to the people.
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