The Bermuda Health Council’s severe reduction in fee cuts (in some cases as much as 87%) for MRI and CT scans came into effect on June 1st, 2017 and has resulted in Brown-Darrell Clinic’s recent announcement that it will close it CT scan service, effective January 31st, 2018.
The fact that this was clearly a targeted political attack on the businesses owned by a political adversary of the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) administration, along with the reality that the island, could be without a back-up to the only CT scan facility at the hospital has led to impassioned calls justice and healthcare options.
Outside of the hospital, the Brown-Darrell Clinic is the only facility that performs CT scans and Bermuda Healthcare Services is the only facility that performs MRIs; both facilities are owned and operated by former Premier, Dr Ewart Brown.
On June 1st, 2017, when diagnostic imaging fees were cut, the hospital received an increase in their operating room fees; this was a benefit that would obviously not be afforded to Dr Brown’s clinics, meaning that for over seven months, BHCS and BDC operated at a significant deficit.
The Health Council that decided to cut the fees was comprised of two OBA candidates, Mr Richard Ambrosio, political advisor to OBA MP Trevor Moniz.
The incontrovertible matter of fact is that Dr Brown’s clinics were the only local private practices affected by these severe cuts. You may find that the synchronicity of timing, events and individuals involved was not a matter of happenstance but instead, evidence of a carefully orchestrated, direct political attack against a political adversary and his businesses.
If the Health Council was serious about cutting healthcare costs, why would they start with diagnostic imaging, which, according to the Bermuda Health Accounts Report 2014, only amounts to approximately 5.5 percent of the total healthcare expenditure?
To justify their decision, the Health Council stated that Bermuda is above the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development) average for CT scanners. We must bear in mind that Bermuda is NOT an individually listed OECD country; our statistics are perhaps included under the United Kingdom.
In Bermuda, we have epidemic levels of diabetes and as a jurisdiction, we suffer from mortality rates from prostate cancer that are higher than all OECD countries (Bermuda’s Prostate Cancer rate is 37.1 per 100k – this is higher than all OECD countries – 22.8%).
Further, our demographic is very different from most OECD countries as we have far more Black people and unfortunately, much more disease. It must also be noted that CTs in private settings such as Brown-Darrell Clinic are not included in OECD statistics.
In sum, the Health Council’s conclusion that the two CT scanners at one hospital site is sufficient for Bermuda is disingenuous at best and ought to be re-examined.
You should also know that for the past ten years, Brown-Darrell Clinic has been the facility on the island that performs complicated Cardiac CT imaging, a highly preferred means of detecting heart disease.
King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) did not perform these tests on its CTs but unsurprisingly, the day after Brown-Darrell Clinic is scheduled to close, the hospital has tentatively scheduled their first-ever Cardiac CT imaging tests.
This whole ordeal has nothing to do with cutting costs, this is about closing a Black-owned business!
The questions have been asked: what will we, the PLP do to address this blatant injustice? Moreover, what will we, the PLP do to ensure that Bermudians have optimal healthcare options on-island and there is a back-up to KEMH’s CT scan facility?
The PLP government granted financial supplements to the Brown-Darrell Clinic and Bermuda Healthcare Services to mitigate the significant and crippling loss suffered a political decision to slash rates by such significant amounts. But, even with the supplements, the Brown-Darrell Clinic is still experiencing cuts up to 78 percent.
The hospital also received this supplement, but remember that the hospital already received an increase in the operating room fees at the same time the cuts to MRI and CT scan fees were made, seven months prior, on June 1st, 2017. The reality is that the government will always keep the hospital running, regardless of what its deficit may be.
This government contends that to address the OBA’s blatant political targeting of a Black-owned business and ensure that the only other on-island CT scan facility can stay open by reverting the diagnostic imaging fees to the pre-June 2017 rates would increase residents’ health insurance premiums by $23.03 a month, and cost the Government an additional $8.6 million.
You may find the government’s reasoning to be an incredibly unpalatable suggestion, having regard to the fact that the diagnostic imaging rates have remained the same for ten years and there is nothing changing; or is there?
Perhaps we should consider that it is the Bermuda Health Council’s recent decision to include palliative care, oral chemotherapy drugs, and limb & amputation care to the standard health benefits (SHB) that is the real reason health premiums will rise.
The reality is that diagnostic imaging was viewed by the OBA administration and the Bermuda Health Council as “low hanging fruit” that had to be cut so that PALS, which has long-since operated as a volunteer charity providing palliative care could benefit from receiving funding from the SHB? After all, that’s what will happen now.
There is no dispute that PALS is well deserving of community support, but you might ask why they would need to receive additional funding for services that were already adequately being provided for through charitable donations?
Respectfully, most medical professionals and indeed members of the community would agree that we should not add benefits to the SHB that will not drive down costs or save lives – the resources should be focused on diagnostic imaging, the preventative care method that can save lives and ultimately long-term healthcare costs; this is especially in Bermuda having regard to our high incidence of disease.
You may find that the decision to channel funding to the charity was the brainchild of the former head of the Charities Commission, Mr Richard Ambrosio, who sat on the Council at the time these changes were made. Remember that Mr Ambrosio was political advisor to Mr Trevor Moniz, the former Attorney General, who initiated proceedings on behalf of the OBA government against Lahey Hospital, alleging untoward dealings with Dr Brown.
While Mr Ambrosio and MP Moniz were reviewing Dr Brown’s personal documents and bank statements, Mr Ambrosio and his colleagues were cutting Dr Brown’s fees at the Bermuda Health Council.
Perhaps a Black man was making too much money for their liking? I trust that you see that this has less and less to do with healthcare costs and pursuing the ends of true justice, and has more to do with a personal issue that some have with a Black man being successful, and vocal!
The ultimate consideration for the Government of Bermuda must be, what is in the best interest of Bermudians.
“Healthcare in Bermuda is expensive and costs must be cut, but not at the risk of patients’ lives.” MP Kim Wilson, Shadow Minister of Health, 26th September 2014.
The government must identify opportunities to improve access, quality and outcomes of healthcare delivery, but targeting diagnostic imaging and allowing our only other CT scan service provider to close is NOT the solution.
The government is invited to reconsider the recent inclusions to the SHB, the real cause of that insurance premiums will rise and reintroduce the pre-June 2017 rates because Bermudians deserve healthcare options, and failing to rectify the consequences of a clear political attack and justifying it under the guise of healthcare costs sends the message that such acts by public representatives will be tolerated by our government; if that’s the case we are setting a dangerous precedent – today it’s the targeting of Dr Brown and his businesses, tomorrow it could be you and me.
NEXT: If we’re serious about cutting healthcare costs; start from the top!