By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday denied that his government was “misleading” the public by insinuating that “cookouts” will no longer be needed to fund people’s medical expenses once National Health Insurance is introduced.
While responding to a statement from Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis in the House of Assembly, Mr Christie said he has “been clear” from the beginning, that NHI’s primary healthcare phase will deal with “preventing catastrophic diseases” and eventually the country will move toward total coverage under the plan.
Dr Minnis claimed that the government “sold the Bahamian people a bill” leading them to believe they will get free treatment for catastrophic illnesses, however he added the primary care phase of NHI is “nothing different” than what is being offered now in the public health system.
“The government never misrepresented the policy commitment of NHI by encouraging the belief that cookouts will end upon the passage of the bill,” Mr Christie said in response.
“This is not true. The record will reflect that as we speak about NHI at all times there have been differing voices, but ultimately when the programme will come it was predicated specifically on the introduction of primary healthcare. It was defined as costing $100 million and it was further defined as saying the services that will be provided, some of which are paid for now, will be free of charge.
“No fee for labs and x ray’s. What we are now talking about is enhancing the policy to get the things done quickly and affordability and to get it done at no cost at the point of service.”
On Sunday, leading surgeon and FNM Senator Dr Duane Sands said that “thousands of Bahamians will continue to die” under the government’s primary care phase of NHI.
In an interview with The Tribune, Dr Sands said the $24m the government plans to set aside to create a special fund for patients with catastrophic medical problems during the first phase of NHI is “not nearly enough” and will only help about “25 to 30” people.
He said while he fully supports the idea of NHI, it will be a “generation” before the country will begin to see the benefits of this initial phase.
Dr Sands said it is “disappointing” that 30 years after the discussion on universal healthcare began that “this is as far as we have come.”
He also urged the government to be “completely honest” with the public and let Bahamians know what will be covered and what will not be under NHI’s primary care phase.