By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN update on the implementation timeline for National Health Insurance should be provided in the next two weeks, NHI Secretariat Permanent Secretary Peter Deveaux-Isaacs said yesterday.
He could not say whether NHI would come on stream this year; however, he said NHI officials are “working feverishly to try to bring this thing about.”
Mr Deveaux-Isaacs’s comments came during the inaugural meeting of the Universal Health Care Stakeholders Advisory Council and the NHI Secretariat at the latter’s headquarters on East Street south.
In March, Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez said the primary healthcare phase of NHI, which was expected to start in April, would be delayed by “around six months or so.”
At the time, officials said a final decision had not yet been made on what legislative framework must exist to facilitate NHI’s public healthcare insurer, but Cabinet planned to go out to tender seeking a private company to manage this area.
That process would likely take months, KPMG executive Mark Britnell said in March, adding that it must be completed and the public health insurer must be established before primary healthcare services could be offered through NHI.
When questioned for an update yesterday, Mr Deveaux-Isaacs said: “In the next two weeks, we will meet again…and we should be in a better position, with a Gantt Chart and everything else to tell you exactly where we are with the implementation of NHI.”
When asked if he felt NHI would come on stream this year, Mr Deveaux-Isaacs said: “…I can’t tell you exactly when that will be, but we’re working feverishly to try to bring this thing about. We know Bahamians want it; 89 per cent of the persons we’ve polled have indicated a positive reaction to the implementation of NHI, so we want to make this thing happen.”
Meanwhile, various NHI stakeholders yesterday praised the formation of the advisory council.
Dr Sy Coolidge Pierre, president of the Medical Association of the Bahamas (MAB) and head of the United Healthcare Reform Alliance (UHRA), said the formation of the advisory council and subsequent first meeting is a “welcomed development where obviously the government is serious in engaging stakeholders so that we can get a programme that is sustainable for all Bahamians and legal residents.”
“And what it seems like now, and I am very, very glad, is it seems like the NHI Secretariat, specifically Mr Peter Deveaux-Isaacs, is on the right track, meeting with us and discussing with us as opposed to speaking at us to get a properly NHI initiative going,” he added.
Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) Chairman Emmanuel Komolafe said the formation of the advisory council is “a step in the right direction.”
“One thing was certain within the meeting (yesterday), and that is the fact that we all are committed to the achievement of Universal Health care in the Bahamas--or better still, the expansion of what we currently have,” he said. “Within the room you could sense there is genuine commitment and we all committed to working diligently to making sure it (NHI) becomes a reality in the Bahamas.”
Mr Britnell, also present at yesterday’s meeting, said he is “overjoyed” at the progress both parties made in yesterday’s meeting.
“I think the era where there is a fairly dormant form of negotiations and consultations where papers are shuffled around between different parties, some are acted upon and some are not acted upon, I hope those days are well and truly behind us,” he said. “I look forward to a much more active and full levels of participation, and I hope and believe that this will be the hallmark of Bahama-care, universal healthcare, affordable care, for the people of The Bahamas.”