[Updated] Responding to the recently released BHB Report, Shadow Minister of Health Senator Michael Dunkley commended the quality-of-care improvements the Bermuda Hospitals Board [BHB] has made, however said the salaries and benefits showed a 12% [or $18.4 million] increase over the previous year, and the public should know the salaries of senior management at the hospital.
Senator Dunkley said: “We are pleased that Minister DeSilva has finally released the 2011 BHB Annual Report [PDF], including the audited financial statements for 2010/2011. We applaud the many quality-of-care improvements the BHB and its dedicated staff have initiated during that time, including digital mammography, a Fast Track emergency department service and an improved medication checking system.
“We note that the 2011 financial statements refer to a fiscal year ending 18 months ago. We appreciate that the Minister apologized for the report’s lateness, but we reject placing the blame on the Auditor General’s office. Members of Parliament were told in April that the document was being printed, and the Minister has not explained why it would take six further months to release the information to the public.
“We have said before that timely information is essential for the best understanding of hospital operations, which have serious implications for the quality of Bermudians’ healthcare and how much it costs. After all, the Bermuda Hospitals Board received $142.5 million in Government funding this year, more than any other Ministry, and the hospitals account for 43 percent of Bermuda’s total healthcare costs.
“The National Health Accounts report released at the end of July provided a glimpse into the hospitals’ finances for 2011, and having now seen the 2011 BHB Annual Report, we come to the same conclusions:
- We see the hospitals account for approximately two thirds of the increase in Bermuda’s total healthcare spending ($60 million out of a $94 million increase) from 2009 to 2011.
- From 2009 to 2011, spending by the Ministry of Health and the Bermuda Hospital Board rose 26 percent compared to a rise in private-sector spending of just 8 percent.
- The hospitals continue to increase their revenue primarily from higher inpatient and outpatient charges rather than operating more efficiently. The revenue they collected from inpatient and outpatient charges rose over 10 percent in 2011.
Senator Dunkley continued: “Minister DeSilva says the BHB saved $4 million by cutting consultants’ costs and one senior management position. These kinds of efficiencies are to be welcomed, although the financial statements don’t indicate where these cuts were made. In fact, the financial statements indicate a drop in ‘consulting and business expenses’ of only $33,605.
“Minister DeSilva says the BHB is focused on ‘controlling costs and maximizing its efficiency.’ Yet salaries and benefits for 2011 showed a 12 percent, or $18.4 million, increase over the previous year. Has the hospital staff increased significantly? Were annual salary increases particularly generous during a severe recession? The financial statements do not provide the answers to these questions, but we believe the public deserves to know.
“We also believe that the public, by law, should know the salaries of senior management at the hospital, especially now that the suspended chief of staff, Dr. Thomas, continues to be paid while under investigation. The Bermuda Hospitals Act requires the BHB annual report to set out ‘the scales of salaries and wages paid to officers and servants of the Board.’ The fact that Minister DeSilva says this has not been done in the past is immaterial; it is the law, and by refusing to disclose the information, the Minister shows that he gives only lip service to transparency and has no problem ignoring this law.
“Finally, Health Partners Limited (HPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of the BHB established through legislation in 2008 enabling the BHB to enter medical partnerships with local healthcare providers, showed a loss in 2011 of over $700,000. Since the intent of HPL was to create additional revenue for the hospitals, we ask Minister DeSilva to explain the loss and indicate if HPL will continue to aggressively invest in local healthcare services,” concluded Senator Dunkley.
Update 2.00pm: Health Minister Zane DeSilva responded saying: “In his response to our BHB report, former UBP Leader turned OBA Leader Michael Dunkley attacked government for the amount of money spent on salaries and benefits for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
“Given Mr. Dunkley’s criticism of salaries for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, I wonder if he plans to slash their salaries and benefits?”
“The PLP believes in standing strong for Bermudians by ensuring that we have the highest quality medical care available for our people. In order to attract and retain high quality doctors and nurses, we need to ensure that we are providing them with competitive salaries and benefits packages.”