National Health Plan Consultation Paper

June 10, 2011

This morning [June 10] Minister of Health Zane Desilva delivered a Ministerial Statement about the National Health Plan Consultation Paper, saying “The initial consultation period is now over and the written feedback has finally ceased to trickle in. I am very happy to report that we received over 100 written submissions. Written feedback was received from the public, employers and the health insurers. In addition, some charities and health professionals also wrote in.”

Minister DeSilva’s full statement is below:

Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, on 8th February 2011 I unveiled the National Health Plan Consultation Paper, and initiated a first phase of public discussion on the important topic of health reform in our country.

The consultation period officially ended on 30th April, but all feedback received after that date – and there was plenty – was accepted.

This allowed a three-month consultation period. Three months packed with 44 meetings and presentations to over 500 stakeholders, including public meetings, meetings with health insurers, meetings with physicians, presentations to charities, and meetings with employers and international business.

Mr. Speaker, the local papers ran 24 news articles during this period; and add to that the large radio and television audiences who listened to news reports and the numerous talk shows we attended, and you get an appreciation of how much was done to spread information about the National Health Plan. In addition, the community utilised social media such as ‘Facebook’ to communicate about the Plan.

Short of knocking on doors, Mr Speaker, there was little else that could be done to get the word out to the community. But that little extra will be done as we continue with the consultation process in future phases of the Plan. In the next round we intend to set up a dedicated web site and an official ‘Facebook’ page to ensure that as many people as possible are talking about the National Health Plan.

Mr Speaker, the initial consultation period is now over and the written feedback has finally ceased to trickle in. I am very happy to report, Mr Speaker, that we received over 100 written submissions.

Written feedback was received from the public, employers and the health insurers. In addition, some charities and health professionals also wrote in.

Mr Speaker, we are now in the process of collating this very large response and a report will be published summarizing the feedback received and outlining the next steps in our health reform plans.

But let me be clear, Mr Speaker, we have always maintained – in every meeting, in every presentation, in every public event – that the work is only just beginning.

This is only the start of a process that will include much more involvement and hard work from all stakeholders, including physicians and other health professionals; local and international employers; insurers; and many more.
The National Health Plan is intended to provide the strategic direction to reform our health care system.

The consultation exercise is helping us to identify what changes need to be made to the proposals before we get too far ahead in the process. With this feedback, we can commence the really hard work of designing and delivering on implementation.

Mr Speaker, the Consultation Paper included 11 goals which were intended to make our health system equitable and sustainable.

Once the Plan is finalized the number of goals may differ from that originally proposed and we will establish the exact number in the coming months.

However, Mr Speaker, it has been clear for 15 years – and it is crystal clear now – that work on some of the goals is essential for Bermuda now – not in three or seven years time. NOW. Therefore, we are beginning the process of identifying relevant individuals to assign to ‘Task Groups’ to work on these priority areas.

These individuals will be drawn from a broad cross-section of the community. They will include everyone from physicians to chiropractors, from charities to private businesses, both local and international employers, private and public health insurers, and – most importantly – patient advocates.

Mr Speaker, there will not be a stakeholder missing from the ‘Task Groups’.

The ‘Task Groups’ will be asked to develop multiple options for achieving each of the goals, and we will ensure we have the best minds around the table to make sure we produce the best results for Bermuda.

But, Mr Speaker, now that I’ve given this brief update please allow me to address some of the comments made about the National Health Plan by newly appointed Senator, Dr Michelmore, as reported in the Bermuda Sun on Wednesday 1st June 2011.

For the record, I want to clarify the issue that has arisen which suggests that physicians have not been involved in the process.

Mr Speaker, these comments are wholly misleading and inaccurate and I can state for the record that physicians were intimately involved in developing the Plan. Any statement to the contrary is absolutely and categorically untrue.

Three of the country’s key physicians were at the table throughout the development of the Plan and their medical knowledge and frontline experience played a significant part in the formulation of the proposals which were eventually put forward.

Mr Speaker, to claim that physicians were not involved is at best disingenuous; and at worst is an insult to the three physicians who contributed their time, effort and indeed, their passion for the ultimate benefit of Bermuda.

However, I understand that some physicians are concerned that we didn’t consult with them first. But they have been advised at every opportunity that physicians, as well as other health professionals like nurses and dentists, will be involved in the design and implementation phases of the National Health Plan.

Mr Speaker, I would reiterate again that the necessity for the involvement of physicians has been stated at every opportunity.

We will certainly be counting on contributions from our physicians during the upcoming phases and I sincerely hope that this genuine intention to include and involve physicians is embraced.

Secondly, Mr Speaker, claims have been made that we are: “reluctant to admit where we are going with the National Health Plan”.

Mr Speaker, I find this to be a truly astonishing assertion!

We could not have been more clear about where we intend to go: equity and sustainability!
Both of these objectives are defined in the Plan as our ‘reform strategy’ and we have made it abundantly clear that financial modelling will be utilised as an important element to define exactly how this can be achieved.

Mr Speaker, the Plan is clear in its intent to introduce universal coverage, equal access to basic healthcare, and proportional financial burden.

Mr Speaker, it would appear that certain elements of our community prefer to use the nonsensical and inaccurate term “socialised medicine”.

But, Mr Speaker, let me remind my honourable colleagues why this term is both inaccurate and misleading.

“Socialised Medicine” is not a technical term. It has no conceptual depth, no technical definition, and doesn’t exist in the technical literature on health systems or health financing.

It is at best a ‘lay term’ generally used by opponents of universal healthcare to discredit such efforts by associating them with socialism.

As seen in debates in the US, it can be a powerful political weapon, even if it has no formal definition.

The term “Socialized Medicine” was popularized in 1947 by a public relations firm working for the American Medical Association to discredit President Truman’s proposal for a national healthcare system. It was a label used to associate this proposal with communism, and to a certain extent it worked.

So please, Mr Speaker, let us not permit this debate to degenerate by the adoption of crude propagandist terms.

We have been absolutely frank in what we would like to see: universal coverage, equal access to basic healthcare, and proportional contributions.

The Plan makes it clear that there is no intention for Government to displace or replace private providers.

Mr Speaker, I do not think that we could have been more open and displayed any greater transparency in regard to the intention of the proposals for health care reforms.

However Mr Speaker, it is too soon to say what the outcome of the initial consultation process has been. There certainly has been a great deal of public discussion and we are developing the work on the financial analysis to provide the public with more information on the “how” when it comes to the cost implications.

Mr Speaker, I ask everyone to work with us as the process evolves and as I stated before, stakeholders from across our community will be at the table working with us throughout the process.

I look forward to coming back to this honourable House with the outcome of the initial consultation phase and to expand with further details on the next steps.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Black Soil says:

    Zane is doing his best. But is a construction boss the best person to be asking the tough questions when it comes to the future of our health care? Zane would be better in Works & Engineering.

  2. Hudson says:

    What i don’t understand is why we are trying to Nationalise our Health Care, when it is clear that although the current system needs a little tweeking, it has worked very well for the last 40+ years. Why give it to the Government to run when they’ve proven they can’t run what they have already? Education – privatise it and move on. Environment – a joke – every two seconds there is an SDO going through. Transport – again, privatise it and move on. Sustainability? This government wouldn’t understand the word sustainability if they were hit over the head with the Oxford Dictionary. No, please, please please don’t now ruin our Health system. It’s like the education system of the 70s and 80s – not without flaws, but working non the less. Watch this space, and i look forward to the discussions about how things were in about 15 years from now.

  3. Fool me once says:

    I agree with @ Hudson. The Govt is already having a hard time running Education, Tourism and Transport. They haven’t even sorted out the sustainability of Future Care yet. Please don’t nationalize our health care! And BTW, we are not a nation – we are the size of a small town. Oh please!

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