HEALTH Minister Dr Perry Gomez.
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH Minister Perry Gomez yesterday maintained that portions of the government’s primary healthcare services could be “omitted” before the plan is rolled out as the Christie administration looks to finalise critical aspects of the scheme prior to the general election.
A day after insisting in media reports that portions of primary care services connected to National Health Insurance (NHI) would be rolled out this month, Dr Gomez yesterday said that his office was still not able to say what portions of the plan would be cut.
Earlier this week, he told The Nassau Guardian that service plans would not be “100 per cent” ready prior to the government’s planned roll out date, stressing that “no journey ends if you don’t start”.
When contacted by The Tribune yesterday for further clarification, the North Andros and Berry Islands MP asserted that his office was doing all it could to “hold our word” to the Bahamian people. He further insisted that he was unsure if all aspects of primary care would be “a go” later this month, while noting that “we have been mandated to get this done”.
Dr Gomez said facilities in the country were being prepared for the installation of universal health coverage. He added that he was of the view that many of the facilities currently operated by public health officials are “good enough for what we want to deliver with NHI”.
“We predicted that NHI would come on stream in April. That date is approaching and every day we are progressing closer and closer to our plan. Now there is still some things that have to be done, but the end of April is the time we said and that is what we will deliver,” said Dr Gomez.
“That was my indication to media, end of April. Now, as we get closer and closer, we will have to make a ruling on a few things that may need to be omitted if need be. But again, we aren’t able to say now what those things are.
“We will be alright though, our facilities are world class and so are our doctors. We will be alright.”
The government has missed several target dates for NHI. The primary care phase was initially supposed to be launched in April last year. However that date was pushed back to January, 2017.
In late 2016, Dr Gomez said NHI could be “slightly” delayed because of Hurricane Matthew, which damaged public buildings including clinics, in October.
That proposed January date was missed and Prime Minister Perry Christie later said the plan would be launched in the first week of April.
In addition to the quality of public healthcare facilities, the advancement of NHI plans have been hindered by limited buy-in by healthcare practitioners and a lack of clarity on how the full plan would be funded and structured.
Officials have maintained that NHI would be rolled out in five phases beginning with the registration phase, which started last year with the issuance of the new NIB smart cards.
That phase was to be followed by the enrolment, primary healthcare coverage, select catastrophic coverage, and full benefits coverage phases, respectively, according to the NHI website.
The Christie administration has long presented NHI plans as one of its key initiatives.