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Has The Destruction Of Hurricane Joaquin Delayed Nhi?

“A SCIENCE professor who sparked a costly four-year corruption scandal at the University of New South Wales has admitted spreading false allegations and apologised to the university,” reported “The Australian” on August 3, 2014.

“The Australian”, Australia’s largest selling newspaper with a weekly circulation of 116,655, had much to say about the case of Dr Paul Barach.

And why should we be interested in this particular professor in way off Australia?

Not only should we be interested in Dr Barach’s case, but so should our government. Dr Barach and the accusations against him should also be of particular interest to the Bahamian people whose lives will be affected by the advice that he has given on behalf of Sanigest International as to how to manage our National Health Insurance (NHI).

According to an article on page 15 of today’s Tribune, Mr James Cercone, CEO and founder of Sanigest International, and Dr Barach held meetings with the medical community here to advance their message that “NHI will be the dream come true which will solve the problems of the Health Care system in The Bahamas.”

It has been claimed that “no one can rival Cercone’s expertise running and consulting on private healthcare service groups across the Developing World.” As for Dr Barach our readers can learn the accusations against him and his apology for faking a cover-up by going on line and searching for his name. The first item on Google reads: “Anesthesiologist ‘con man’ apologizes for faking cover-up.” The report on Dr Barach follows. Dr Barach was appointed chief medical advisor for Sanigest International this year.

On August 16, the Bahamas Insurance Association complained that it was “unacceptable, inappropriate and disrespectful” for the government’s National Health Insurance consultant, Mr Cercone of Sanigest, to publicly scold the industry over its concerns about his company’s proposals. The insurers felt “such attacks would make meaningful dialogue on the issue difficult to achieve.” They wanted the Prime Minister to bring order and structure to the debate.

Mr Cercone had told the private health insurers that it was “absolutely absurd” for them to fear that the proposed NHI scheme would result in the “complete nationalisation” of their industry. He also told Tribune Business that the scheme would actually create “a more competitive and dynamic” health insurance market than presently exists.

He explained that Sanigest had pushed the government to approve a “multi-payer” model for NHI, where the existing private health insurers will compete alongside a yet-to-be created public insurer, all offering the same plans and benefits. He also described as “non-existent” fears that the scheme’s implementation will negatively impact the Bahamian economy, arguing that the current system was “more damaging”.

An agitated insurance association wanted to know if government supported Sanigest’s views, as the Ministry of Health had engaged the firm and had done nothing to distance itself from the advice being given by Sanigest’s CEO.

The Medical Association has been suspicious of the practicality of the proposals from the beginning, especially about the cost.

According to Prime Minister Christie in three months’ time his government will introduce the first phase of NHI, but so far no one knows the cost. He has stated that there will be no taxes for the first year, but fails to say what the taxes will be and how they will grow in the years to come.

The Bahamas Medical Association estimates that the scheme will cost $917.3m just to implement, with Sanigest protesting that the medics are “comparing apples with oranges”, therefore, arriving at the wrong conclusion. Government, following the package recommended by Sanigest, had put a $400m price tag on the plan, which, reported Tribune Business, it proposed to finance from existing tax revenues in its Consolidated Fund and the “re-purposing” of existing spending.

So far, no one knows the cost or the details of the plan. The packet was sent to PriceWaterhouseCoopers for an assessment. It was reported that PwC’s task was to review the report provided by Sanigest, assess the information and how it was gathered, and whether the “conclusions raised are feasible and workable in this environment”.

Those conclusions are still unknown. However, there have been rumours that the accounting firm in trying to discover how Sanigest arrived at its financial conclusions was told that its figures were proprietary and could not be divulged. We have not been able to confirm this rumour, but this is what happens when people are kept in the dark, right or wrong, they arrive at their own conclusions.

All we know is that no one has given reliable details of the estimated cost of the package. The matter has been sent back to PwC. Obviously to again review the report provided by Sanigest.

Or was it sent back as a result of the report on Dr Paul Barach, Sanigest Chief Medical adviser, who in the Australian press has been accused of being a “con-man”? According to the report, the University of New South Wales, who Dr Barach had accused of wrongful dismissal, filed a court document in turn accusing him of being “a conman with a 15-year history of fraud and deceit.” Two and a half years ago he sued for defamation, but has yet to follow through on his action. As a result the university has brought more allegations. Although he has not responded to the claims, he has unreservedly withdrawn his own allegations, which he admitted he fabricated, and apologised.

However, whether the figures given to The Bahamas were fudged or not, the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin – “it will take tens of millions of dollars to recover,” according to Prime Minister Christie — should certainly put the introduction of NHI on the back burner for a very long time.

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