HEALTH Minister Dr Perry Gomez.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH Minister Dr Perry Gomez said yesterday it is “likely” that the government will postpone the introduction of its primary healthcare phase of National Health Insurance.
However, he did not say how long the delay could last nor did he suggest a new date for the introduction of the scheme.
The government initially said NHI’s primary healthcare phase would be introduced in April.
But when asked if the scheme will be postponed, Dr Gomez said: “It’s likely.”
Dr Gomez’s statement comes after government officials insisted for months that the Christie administration would stick to its timeline for NHI despite resistance from stakeholders in the health insurance and medical communities.
“Delays ain’t no problem,” Dr Gomez said when asked by reporters to respond to a statement Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen made last week on Guardian Radio 96.9 FM when he admitted that a delay is possible.
“Delays take place in life all the time. It ain’t (going to) be forever,” he said, speaking to reporters after an equipment contract signing ceremony at the Public Hospitals Authority.
Dr Brennen, who is also NHI’s project manager, suggested last week that healthcare providers not signing up with the government for NHI was one of the chief concerns for organisers of the plan.
At the time, he also suggested that a delay in primary healthcare was possible.
“We don’t know whether it will be delayed or not,” Dr Brennen said, while a guest on The Revolution with host Juan McCartney.
He was asked if the government was able to meet its target for an April roll out of primary care.
“I think we have to come to an understanding that we are pushing our hardest to move it (its introduction) to as early in this process as possible,” Dr Brennen said.
“But I think we do have to be realistic as these things progress that there may be times when things get moved. We as an NHI movement are trying to be as honest and open with the Bahamian people as we can. And from our side, we want to let you know that we are working as hard as we can to do it, but we all have to play our part. And we could push with providers, but if (healthcare) providers don’t sign up, we’re in trouble.”
The Christie administration has struggled to secure the approval of stakeholders to implement universal healthcare.
Insurance officials have repeatedly complained about poor consultation as they seek to convince the government to scratch its plans to introduce a public insurer to the marketplace and instead embrace their own recommendations, which include eliminating healthcare taxes and imposing a healthcare insurance mandate.
Government officials recently confirmed that no mandate would accompany the scheme, however.
And more recently, doctors joined together in saying they would not support NHI if better consultation did not take place.
The doctors have expressed concerns about capitation, patient centred medical homes and the alleged lack of institutional capacity to sustain demands that will be created by the system.
Recently, Dr Locksley Munroe, head of the Consultant Physician Staff Association (CPSA), a body representing more than 100 senior doctors in the country’s public health system, said NHI’s introduction should be delayed to ensure it works properly despite the fact that the government has made significant progress towards addressing their concerns.
A postponement of NHI would fit into a pattern of delays for the governing Progressive Liberal Party, which has repeatedly failed to meet its own self-imposed deadlines on several key initiatives.
Last year, when asked if his government would postpone NHI to work out details with stakeholders as it did in the lead up to value added tax’s (VAT) implementation, Prime Minister Perry Christie said it would not.