By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday that a recent admission from Damian Gomez that he is in the dark on the specifics about National Health Insurance is proof that the Christie administration is “in a state of chaos.”
Dr Minnis said Mr Gomez’s comments raise the question of how many persons in Cabinet know just what NHI will specifically entail.
However, Mr Gomez, who is state minister for legal affairs, yesterday affirmed his allegiance to the governing party.
In a statement released by PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts, Mr Gomez said that despite his reported dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of NHI: “I am no political parasite or opportunist.”
This came a day after FNM Chairman Michael Pintard said the FNM would welcome Mr Gomez into its fold, adding that it is evident the Central and South Eleuthera MP is not happy with the Christie administration.
On Monday, The Nassau Guardian reported that Mr Gomez said he did not know the specific plans for NHI and added that the government’s public relations on the scheme is “horrible” and another “embarrassing moment.”
Speaking with The Tribune yesterday, Dr Minnis said Mr Gomez’s comments show that the Christie administration is “in a state of chaos” and operating in a “dysfunctional and disjointed manner.”
“Government members appear to be confused,” Dr Minnis said. “(Mr Gomez) admits that he is lost on NHI, while Christie and his health minister (Dr Perry Gomez) say the plan has full government backing, and are set to move ahead. One has to wonder from (Mr Gomez’s) comment, whether they communicate at the Cabinet level. And I would hasten to believe that if you were to ask each Cabinet member whether they understand NHI, I would think more than 50 per cent of them do not understand NHI, they are just as confused as the public.”
However in his statement, Mr Gomez touted the PLP as the “only government with the conviction and political will to deliver universal healthcare to the Bahamian people.”
He also lodged his support behind NHI as the “right policy” to “protect and improve the overall health and quality of life for our people.”
Reacting to Mr Pintard saying he is welcome to join the FNM, Mr Gomez said: “…My response is simple and clear: just as my Cabinet and parliamentary colleague (Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald) is no political prostitute, I am no political parasite or opportunist.”
“My philosophy is aligned with the philosophy, tenets and values of the Progressive Liberal Party,” Mr Gomez continued. “The PLP government has worked long and hard to implement many of the transformational policies that collectively form the modern Bahamas.
“I support (NHI) as the right policy to protect and improve the overall health and quality of life for our people and so does the government...I also support more direct engagement and communication with the Bahamian people on what the government is doing on their behalf in this area and have voiced the same. This is easily corrected.
“So for me it is not an issue of politics as it appears to be with the FNM. NHI is an issue of national development, under-girded by the principles of social justice and equality. The PLP is the only government with the conviction and political will to deliver universal healthcare to the Bahamian people.”
NHI will be phased in over a five-year period, officials have said. The government has allocated $60m for the first phase of NHI.
According to Sanigest Internacional, the government’s Costa Rican consultants on NHI, the scheme could cost up to $633m if implemented as a comprehensive package. On the low end, NHI could cost around $362m.
However, with less than a month before its proposed implementation date, the government has yet to reveal how much NHI will cost and how it plans to pay for the proposed scheme in the long-term.
There are also concerns that the current healthcare system is not yet ready to meet the government’s self imposed implementation date of January 1, concerns that have been documented in a May 2015 report on key NHI plan elements by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Despite these concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has said that the government is not discussing delaying the rollout of NHI.