Column: What Does Consultation Mean To You?

December 6, 2019

[Opinion column written by Scott Pearman]

What do you think of when you hear the word consultation?

What does consultation mean to you?

If I tell my kids that I must “consult” with their mother before getting a dog from the SPCA, consultation used in that sense means I need to seek her agreement [or, in my house, must get her permission].

I will ask her. She may say yes. She may say no. And that’s that [sorry kids].

But if I “consult” with my neighbours about removing an oleander hedge on the boundary between us, consultation used in that sense has a different meaning.

Consultation in that sense means seeking my neighbours input about what might be done – wanting to hear, and to consider, what views they may have. Depending on what my neighbours say, I may decide not to remove the hedge. Or I might just trim a bit off the top. Or they may ask me to do the work in the afternoon, so they are not disturbed at an early hour in the morning.

These two examples – the dog and the hedge – show there can be legitimate differences in what people mean when they talk about consultation.

But the important point is this: both types of consultation necessarily involve seeking the opinions of others.

In the case of the dog, my wife’s opinion is sought to try to gain agreement.

With the hedge, opinion is sought from my neighbours to gain information. Information can then be used to assess the merits of the plan – to make the plan better – or to abandon the plan entirely and do something else.

I got to thinking about the meaning of consultation while witnessing the PLP’s so-called “consultation” on healthcare reform.

You may have heard the current Government wants to dismantle Bermuda’s healthcare system and replace it with their new “Basic Plan”.

Leaving aside whether the Basic Plan is a good idea [hint: it is not], it is clear the PLP is not really engaged in any meaningful consultation.

Agreement is not being sought from the Public. We are not being asked whether we want the dog. The PLP is not asking us whether or not the Basic Plan should be implemented.

Nor does the Government want to hear our views on any other ways to improve healthcare.

The Health Minister has already confirmed the Basic Plan will happen in 2020. It’s going to be rolled out. The expression ‘Come Hell or high-water’ comes to mind [although those are my words, not hers].

Although the details of the Basic Plan remain woefully unclear – the Basic Plan is going to happen. If you are interested in those details we presently know, then look at my 2nd October 2019 article. Or read the recent analysis provided by the Patients First group.

Back to consultation: the PLP say they want to hear your views about what services the Basic Plan should contain.

Hold on a minute.

They don’t want to hear your views on whether or not the Basic Plan should happen.

They don’t want to hear any other ideas you may have to address the obvious problems with Bermuda’s healthcare system.

They just want to hear what might go into their Basic Plan.

This is like a taxi saying it will take you anywhere you like – anywhere at all – just as long as it’s the airport. No other options are on the table.

The taxi can take North Shore to the airport or South Road to the airport, but you’re going to the airport.

This is not really consultation, is it?

You can have the PLP’s Basic Plan or you can have the PLP’s Basic Plan. The decision has been made for you. Your concerns are not required.

The PLP said as much in the House of Assembly on Friday when a PLP MP criticized people who signed the recent petition circulated by the Patients First group. This was a petition signed by thousands of Bermudians inviting the Government not to rush into this reform.

Yes, you heard that right. Thousands of Bermudian voters express their view on a hugely important issue to our Island. And the PLP respond by saying this: “there are many people who did sign that petition just to say no – and they did not go out to find the facts.”

So if you were one of the thousands of Bermudian who signed the petition, the PLP thinks you are an uninformed naysayer. What happened to listening to the people…?

Back to the PLP’s so-called “consultation”. The Government has decided there will be a Basic Plan. You are going to the airport, no matter which route the taxi may take to get there.

It also seems pretty obvious that the Government already knows the details for their Basic Plan – or at least most of the details. Ask yourself this: without the details, how did the PLP manage to calculate their proposed monthly cost of $514 for adults and $178 for children? They clearly have some idea of what will be in the Basic Plan.

So why is the Government engaged in this sham consultation?

You are getting the Basic Plan, whether you like it or not.

Is that really consultation? If not, then what would meaningful consultation on healthcare reform look like to you?

No dog kids [sorry about that]. Now, what to do with that oleander hedge…

- Scott Pearman is the Member of Parliament for Paget East [Constituency 22] and Shadow Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs for the One Bermuda Alliance


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Comments (6)

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  1. Julie says:

    Totally agreed! Their minds are made up! How are they going to implement more preventative care if health services are being cut? & also private clinics with diagnostic testing owned by doctors who have an invested interest in ordering unnecessary tests have played a big part in rising health costs! There should be no private clinics or only government run clinics & the hospital being used for diagnostic testing! But the hospital needs to be better staffed & more diagnostic equipment provided to cut down on waiting time. This should have been implemented 10-15 yrs ago & the new hospital should have been made available for island diagnostic testing!

  2. clearasmud says:

    Clearly the author has narrowed his definition of consultation to meet his own agenda. The term its self is so vague that it could mean anything and does not limit what is consulted on or whether it is a part or the whole of and issue or even when it should take place. What would be helpful is if the government had a consultation policy that established how it conducts consultations so that the process would become known. That said consultation does not obligate anyone to take a particular action it simply provides opportunity to receive input which may or may not be used.any final decisions will always be made by whoever is doing the consultation.

  3. Gina Ingham says:

    Well said Scott. I fully support you. Our health care is in big trouble. Most doctors will leave because they won’t be able to afford to practice here. Not to mention it will take months to get an appointment with your doctor…….assuming there is one. It will be interesting to see who the doctor(s) is/are who get the government contract. Surely a family friend of the PLP. Oh, and I hope that backache you have isn’t cancer……the next available MRI scan won’t be available for 9 months….. I will look into International Health Insurance for my family. And I WILL NOT pay for this garbage unless it provides me with the exact same benefits I now enjoy with my insurance. They can LOCK ME UP!!!!!

  4. Joe Bloggs says:

    To me “consultation” by the government means a town hall meeting at which I am shouted down and told to leave because I asked a question about the expected economic impact of a proposed policy. That was in 2008.

    I have never participated in any form of government “consultation” since then nor do I intend to.

  5. Rhonda says:

    The government is elected to lead.. they should consult when and where applicable..

    Any group or industry concerned about unified health insurance..note this isn’t about health-care……. it’s about insurance..had 20 years to bring forth all the changes they make what’s happening now unnecessary…

    The Colony is no longer debating or consulting on the what needs to be done… we’re at the how to do it stage and one can choose to participate for the best outcome for all.. and not the select few..

    It makes no sense to the person who is forced by a legal mandate to pay an insurance premium, guaranteeing a company a steady income stream… but the recipient themselves cannot afford to use the product that they are paying for.

    If one can’t afford the $50 co-pay to see a GP for their minor ailment… They’re force to seek services that don’t require an upfront payment at the time of service.. aka the hospital.. where that same service is three times the amount..

    To these people the threat of doctors leaving is vail…as they can’t afford to see them anyway..

    In my opinion..the haves ought to sit back and hear the plight of the have nots or less… For the haves will always have regardless the path.

    He who feels it knows it..

    Lastly, You aren’t consulting with me to give my child a living animal.. you are seeking my permission..

    The elected government isn’t seeking your permission to lead.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Ok, while I am not a member of any old Bermuda family I can afford private insurance.

      You let people with no experience of health care or financial planning (which is what insurance companies do) run the health care system and see how long it lasts.

      As much as you may dislike insurance companies, you will like bankruptcy even less.