Medical Doctor Urges Minister to Use Influence for Patient Safety

Medical Director of HMC-Burnaby Urgent Care & Medical Imaging, Dr JJ Soares, today presented 7,334 signatures of Bermudians from an online petition on and offline which request that HMC-Burnaby Urgent Care & Medical Imaging finally be approved by the Bermuda Health Council to service HIP and FutureCare patients who already lack adequate access to healthcare options.

Dr Soares points out that “not only does this further disadvantage HIP and FutureCare patients but it also represents a grave patient safety issue.

“Some scanners in our community are outdated and should have long ago been retired according to guidelines espoused by both North America and Europe. Firstly, outdated scanners are generally not supported by their manufacturers past 10 years and often have to rely on second hand or aftermarket parts. More importantly, these machines subject patients to higher levels of radiation
while also providing inferior image quality as compared to state-of-the-art scanners.”

The European Society of Radiologists recommends that it is essential to replace scanners older than 10 years. In Bermuda, there is an MRI which is 18 years old and a CT scanner which is 15
years old. Data supplied by the Health Council itself determined that 2% of all future cancers in the United States will be attributable to CT scans alone.

Dr Soares continues: “With this sobering evidence, wouldn’t the Council’s time be better spent ensuring the removal of the outdated equipment in Bermuda rather than going out of it’s way to block access to HMC which is bringing the latest, safest and best technologies available to Bermuda? Isn’t the Bermuda Health Council supposed to be prioritizing patient safety above all else?

It would seem to me that the Health Council is avoiding its most important obligation: to ensure public safety first and foremost. Indeed, I believe that the use of outdated scanning equipment, especially that which emits radiation, constitutes an urgent public safety issue.”

HMC-Burnaby Urgent Care & Medical Imaging has been petitioning the government for over four years for SHB approval, which virtually every other imaging referral center in Bermuda already has. Indeed, all but one other such facility has SHB approval.

HMC took its case to the Supreme Court and was awarded SHB by them. However, the Bermuda Health Council, with funding provided by the government, took the case to the Court of Appeal to try and overturn that decision. The Judge ruled that the Bermuda Health Council must formally review HMC’s full-year application for SHB approval which was submitted in June of 2020. If the Council is successful in removing SHB it will mean that patients who have HIP and FutureCare insurance will not be able to have any scans done at HMC-Burnaby.

We requested an urgent meeting with the Minister of Health to discuss the
Health Council’s inaction with respect to this issue. She has refused to meet with us, referring us instead to the Health Council who has so far not acted responsibly.”

Under the Health Council Act 2004, point #7, “the Minister, after consultation with the Council, may give general directions as to the policy to be followed by the Council in the performance of its functions as appear to the Minister to be necessary in the public interest, and the Council shall give effect to any such directions. According to the law, the Minister has the ability and the means to give the Health Council directions where it is in the interest of public safety.”

Dr Soares concludes: “I call on the Minister, in accordance with the Health Council Act, to reign in the Health Council, which has during their tenure, made a series of poor decisions; decisions with deference perhaps to influences other than those which serve patient interests.

“The Council and the government have clearly not listened to me for four years; hopefully they will listen to the people!”

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