Good afternoon, guests and Government team members.
The future healthcare needs of our community are being determined by the changes we see in disease patterns and the demographic shift to an ageing population. Early onset of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and heart disease will dictate the need for healthcare professionals to address these areas. In particular, there will be demand for a workforce to support the lifestyle changes required to prevent and control these diseases.
We will need a variety of professionals, not simply physicians and nurses. Health educators, psychologists, dieticians, lifestyle coaches, addiction specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists will be in demand, and not just in Bermuda.
Supporting people in their lifestyle changes and controlling the complications of poorly-treated chronic diseases will require all these skilled professionals and more. And the effort is doubled as it is confounded by our ageing demographic and the associated increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s. As a health system, we have a tall task ahead.
I recognize that each profession has its unique challenges in training, recruiting and retaining professionals. I am pleased that there is broad participation in today’s session to share information about these challenges and ways to overcome them.
My Ministry is committed to making progress toward the goal of universal healthcare, where every person has access to the basic health services they need without suffering financial hardship. I am personally committed to this goal, as reflected in our Bermuda Health Strategy, which we are currently implementing.
To support the goal of universal health coverage, we will need to make sure there are adequate and appropriate healthcare professionals with the right skill sets to provide good preventive and primary care, as well as specialist care, rehabilitation services and palliative care as required.
Input from the Department of Immigration, Workforce Development, professional statutory bodies, professional associations as well as both public and private professionals is key to the development of a sensible approach to meeting the island’s health workforce needs.
There is much to learn from jurisdictions in the region and globally; Bermuda’s exercise is not in isolation. It is heartening to see so many collaborating on this important health system issue.
The Ministry of Health and Seniors team is very grateful for the support of the Pan American Health Organization in this area. Thank you to Dr Noreen Jack and Dr Hedwig Goede for embarking on this mission visit.
Having the support we need is critical to our population. I look forward to gaining insights and hearing advice on strategic planning for Bermuda’s future health workforce needs.