Ministerial Statement by the Minister of Health Hon. Kim Wilson JP, MP
I rise today to remind us all of the number one priority for the Ministry of Health: Making healthcare affordable and accessible for all.
This week is an opportune time to consider this matter given the theme chosen for the May 1st International Workers’ Day observance by the Bermuda Trade Union Congress. Their theme was “Affordable and accessible healthcare for all”, Mr Speaker. And you can imagine that this is a theme that simply brings music to my ears.
The theme reflects the most fundamental goal of my Ministry and of our national health plan, which is now entitled the Bermuda Health Strategy.
The mission of the health strategy is “to provide affordable and sustainable healthcare for all Bermuda residents” and I’m determined that we will achieve it under this Government.
In the past week, I’ve met with over 140 health system partners and stakeholders to update them on the progress made to date and the next steps under the health plan. And one of the things that makes me hopeful and excited about the plan is that it enjoys bipartisan support.
As you may recall, Mr Speaker, a great deal of work was done on the National Health Plan by the last PLP administration. When the Government changed, after a brief period of abeyance, the Plan was recrafted and relaunched under the banner of the Bermuda Health Strategy. The two are, as we say in legal circles, “strikingly similar”. And this gave me solace that the overall aims of the Health Plan had continued to advance under the OBA administration.
This is great news for everyone. First because it means that we have continued to move closer to achieving more equity, quality and sustainability in our health system. But also because we can now continue the work and get us over the finish line to make healthcare affordable and accessible for all.
The past week’s meetings with stakeholders enabled me to update our partners on the progress made to date and the priorities coming.
I stressed to everyone that affordable and accessible healthcare for all is the number one priority for me and we will bring about the reforms needed to make this happen.
As the World Health Organization has stated, Mr Speaker, “Promoting and protecting health is essential to human welfare and sustained economic and social development”.
I could not agree more. We can talk about economic growth or recessions. Or about crime or prosperity. Or about our future or where we’ve come from. But, Mr Speaker, without our health, we will go nowhere but to an early grave.
Health is one of the most fundamental things we have to treasure in life. Without good health our children can’t learn or thrive or grow to their full potential. Unhealthy adults can’t be fully productive, effective members of society. And without health, we age without quality of life and in pain or distress, and feeling like a burden on those around us. Health is literally our lifeblood, Mr Speaker. We cannot take it for granted any longer.
Furthermore, I believe that healthcare is a Universal Human Right. I believe that as a society we will be measured by the way we treat our weakest members. And I believe with all my heart that inequitable access to healthcare is a despicable shame on a wealthy society like ours.
But, sadly, Mr Speaker, inequitable access is exactly what we have. And that inequity impacts us all negatively. Because rest assured that we pay for it dearly.
We pay for care that comes too late when it is most expensive. And we pay in societal costs when a family is left without a breadwinner who succumbs to a treatable illness because they lacked insurance. We pay for years of productive lives lost due to unmanaged chronic diseases that lead to amputation, permanent disability or daily reliance on complex, costly technologies like dialysis. We pay in unnecessary pain and suffering for children who lose parents, and for invasive, futile and undignified interventions at the end of life.
We pay, Mr Speaker. We always pay.
So to anyone who asks, “what is the price of equity?”. I say, “what is the price of inequity?”.
But I can tell you that price… It’s a $700 million health system for 63 thousand people. It’s $11,000 per person a year on per capita health spending, Mr Speaker. It’s the second most expensive health system in the developed world, Mr Speaker. That is the price we pay.
But we are putting an end to this.
I know everyone in this country wants to see health costs come down. And I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t agree that healthcare should be affordable and accessible for all. So in that goal we are united, Mr Speaker. We are united across the floor of this Honourable House. And we are united throughout the Bermuda I love that is caring and compassionate. The Bermuda where we truly are our brother’s keeper.
I believe in us, Mr Speaker.
In my discussions with our partners I heard clearly that they too want everyone to have access to preventive healthcare to avoid problems and resolve issues before they escalate.
I know we also want people to be safe if a catastrophic, unexpected illness befalls our neighbour, colleague or school friend.
But we can’t keep funding these tragic cases with bake sales and community fund raisers. We need proper health financing that will make better use of our healthcare dollars to make sure everyone has what they need. Though I stress that this is quite different from giving everyone what they want.
As we start the new fiscal year, we are pressing ahead with bringing forward proposals for financing reform developed under the national health plan task groups. This is a goal under the Bermuda Health Strategy and this work will enable us to consider costed options and make informed decisions about our future health financing. I’m very excited about this work, Mr Speaker, and looking forward to sharing more about this over the coming months.
Healthcare should never be a privilege, Mr Speaker. A civilized society needs a healthy population to thrive. So having access to affordable healthcare is vital to Bermuda’s prosperity.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.