By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Government’s main National Health Insurance (NHI) adviser said yesterday that the newly-appointed governance structure would hopefully “speak truth to power”, and aid the proposed implementation of its primary care phase in six months’ time.
Dr Mark Britnell, head of KPMG’s 4,000-strong global health practice, told Tribune Business yesterday that the NHI Advisory Council, which met yesterday for the first time, was a “big tent” of stakeholders involved in the NHI discussion.
“We are moving to a different phase where it is truly participative consultation,” he explained. “We had our first national stakeholder advisory group meeting, where various sectors were represented, and we started to talk about the Government’s plans for universal health care (UHC).
“I’m pleased to say that there was a strong degree of consensus in building universal health care. Still, there are obviously natural concerns about what the details are, but we were able to say we will try and get to the root of people’s concerns in a very open and transparent way as the programme rolls forward during the remainder of this calandar year.”
The Government’s NHI Secretariat confirmed that it has invited numerous healthcare industry groups and professionals to be part of the Advisory Council, which will oversee reform implementation.
The move, which was recommended by Dr Britnell and KPMG, is designed to foster inclusivity after stakeholders complained about insufficient engagement and consultation.
“We believe that all good universal health care starts from very strong primary care foundations, and so every one has their family doctor who they can go to without worrying about the affordability,” Dr Britnell said.
“I think that principle has been well-established elsewhere in the world, and certainly has been accepted here. There is also the issue of consultation. We can’t have too many divisions in a relatively small country like the Bahamas and hope to make progress.
“I think the Advisory Council is a demonstration of the Government’s faith and good intention to move to a different form of engagement and participation. That has been very much welcomed by the stakeholders.”
As to the Advisory Council’s ultimate goal, Dr Britnell said: “I think there are two things. One is to speak truth to power, and to make sure that as we build universal health care, all sectors of society feel like they have got a say and a part in the future of building the country and this universal health care system.”
The introduction of primary healthcare was slated for April 1 but, in late March, Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez acknowledged that there would be a delay of about six months so the Government could establish a public insurer.
Prime Minister Perry Christie, during his 2016-2017 Budget address, reiterated his commitment to implementing the NHI scheme, although he did not discuss costs or timelines.