Bermuda Health Strategy Workshop - Minister Wilson's Remarks

13 March, 2020

Good Afternoon Everyone,

First of all, I want to sincerely thank you for making time for today and tomorrow’s workshops.

I can assure you that with the preventive activities and preparations for Covid-19, my team and I have our plates over-full right now – as I imagine some of you may also. So I know this is a difficult time to be considering what to some might seem like a ‘nice to have’: an updated health strategy.

However, I absolutely believe that we cannot allow the urgent to completely displace the important. Bermuda needs unity of vision for healthcare and the creation of a refreshed health strategy is vital. Indeed, such a strategy will, in the long term, put us in a better place to deal with the next global health crisis.

I want you to know that we did consider this week whether the workshops should be postponed. We decided to proceed for reasons that I believe will make sense to you also.

Bermuda’s risk is currently at ‘Elevated’ stage. Until we are officially raised to “High risk” for many people in the health system a great many functions have to continue. Once we are on ‘high risk’ resources will naturally be redirected and non-essential work will be deferred. However, we are not currently ‘high risk’ and only if and when there is a Covid-19 case on island will our risk status change.

The Ministry’s Public Health Emergency Response Team (PHERT) is establishing a Covid Incident Command structure populated by a cross-section of health and associated personnel. Resources are added to it daily. We rely on their leadership in the preparations. This enables other parts of the Ministry to continue business operations, including my Office.

The other important consideration in the decision to proceed with the workshops is that these workshops involve approximately 30 stakeholders. The health system has well over 2,000. If the country were on ‘high’ risk  we would have rescheduled, but at ‘elevated’ I believe it was best to complete this leg of the health strategy work now, while it is fresh on everyone’s mind, following the KPMG survey and stakeholder interviews.

In sum, this was a tough call to make. There was no ideal decision but, in weighing the pros and cons across the health system, we felt this was appropriate at this time.

And now onto the day’s business…

The purpose of this work is to create a new health strategy for Bermuda for the next 5 years. As you may have heard me say before, we truly need a unified vision for health – one that inspires trust, hope and confidence, so we can stand united in the pursuit of a healthier Bermuda.

Today you will work to understand and agree the main challenges we are facing. Tomorrow will have you focused on prioritizing these challenges and thinking about how we will address them.

We are taking an open, collaborative approach to ensure all stakeholders get an opportunity to shape our new vision and strategy. We have a responsibility to our people to get this right.

With KPMG’s support, we are bringing in a number of international health system experts to help share global lessons and innovations. As difficult as it is to give up two half-days, I really believe that you will feel it is worth it.

Before proceeding with the day’s agenda, I would like to provide a brief update on the Ministry’s health finance reforms, or the Bermuda Health Plan.

Everyone will know, I’m sure, that we conducted a lengthy public consultation for four months at the end of last year. Right now we are collating the feedback to determine some of the next steps. The consultation feedback is being analyzed by a researcher at the Bloomberg School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University. The report will inform next steps and will be made public.

Some people have asked what the difference is between the health strategy and the Bermuda Health Plan, so I think it’s important to clarify so there is no uncertainty or confusion in today and tomorrow’s deliberations.

The Bermuda Health Strategy 2014 – 2019 is a 5-year strategy to address 14 broad health system goals, of which health financing reform and universal coverage are just two goals.

As a reminder, the Strategy was published under the previous Government administration, and it built on the work of the National Health Plan.

The Bermuda Health Plan, on the other hand, is focused exclusively on health financing reform. It comes under the auspices of the broader health strategy to address the specific health financing reform objectives to improve access and sustainability in the health system.

In short, the Bermuda Health Plan is focused only on financing reform. The Strategy is focused on the broader health system including, for example, prevention and long term care.

The task of this workshop – to create a new health strategy for the next five years – is a continuation of the previous strategy which expired in 2019. As such, it doesn’t replace or undo the Government’s health financing reform plans.

Although we have been waiting for the consultation feedback report to determine some of next steps.

Nevertheless, the one component that is being advanced is the establishment, under the Bermuda Health Council, of a Benefit Design Working Group that will review the consultation feedback, demographic and survey data and recommend what Bermuda’s essential package of benefits should be. This will, over time, replace the current standard health benefit.

But today we are here to look at the next five, or perhaps even 10 years of Bermuda’s health.

Today and tomorrow, we are now ‘zooming out’ to consider the whole strategy for healthcare on the island. And we will focus on the ‘implementation gap’ to ensure your good work gets acted on.

The aim is to have the new strategy ready for publication in the Summer. Your input today and tomorrow will determine the country’s vision for health, and I have every confidence that it will be a positive one.

Once again I am truly grateful to each of you for your willingness to collaborate and provide your knowledge, perspective and time.

Thank you.

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