HEALTH Minister Dr Perry Gomez.
By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE primary healthcare phase of National Health Insurance, which was expected to start in April, will be delayed by “around six months or so,” Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez told reporters yesterday.
His statement came a week after government consultants from KPMG said it will be months before primary healthcare services are offered.
Last week officials said a final determination has 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.
This process will take months, KPMG executive Mark Britnell said last week, adding that it must be completed and the public health insurer must be established before primary healthcare services could be offered through NHI.
When contacted for his thoughts yesterday, leading surgeon Dr Duane Sands said he “highly doubts” the first phase of NHI will be implemented before the summer.
However, Dr Sands said he believes the discussions between the government and stakeholders have taken a turn for the better and the exchanges are no longer “just unilateral.”
Dr Sands said the big question now is whether the government will delay the plan long enough to arrive at a quality programme for Bahamians or push forward and use NHI as a political tool.
“If the government considers and takes into account the suggestions from KPMG and give the people the opportunity to learn how to deliver the services properly then this could work,” Dr Sands said.
“We have heard about the equipment acquisition plans and the ward renovations but we haven’t seen them. If the government can move away from the ‘my way or the highway’ approach, they will find a number of stakeholders prepared to join hands with them. We will wait and see whether the government actually cares or if this is just a political tool.”
The government has previously said NHI’s primary care phase would begin in April. But in February, Dr Gomez said a delay was “likely”.
Yesterday Dr Sands said physicians are still on board to assure that once the scheme is introduced, it has all its element working well.
Dr Sands termed NHI as a major undertaking that requires non-partisan and civic consultation to work.
He said all matters connected to the proposed scheme need to be constructed in a manner where all persons projected to benefit, see and understand what they will be afforded under the new policy prior to its implementation.
The government has yet to table and pass NHI legislation in Parliament nor has the Christie administration revealed how much it will cost taxpayers.