I was surprised by the press announcement yesterday that the OBA has ordered the Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) to reverse its decision concerning the closing of the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre (UCC).
This decision follows a growing popular outcry in response to the initial decision, with a petition reportedly achieving over 3000 signatures already, and set to culminate in a march on the House of Assembly today.
Perhaps more importantly, it follows the leaking of a BHB document which was reported in the television news last night.
That leaked document apparently undermined the argument presented by the OBA and the BHB that the UCC was being shut as it was running at a loss of $250k a year and was, thus, unsustainable. The leaked document instead implies that while the UCC has run at a loss previously, it has since (and continues) to run at a profit.
There’s also apparently some talk that the Minister or the BHB have been in talks with private interests about selling off the UCC for a private medical practice of some kind.
I can’t vouch for the legitimacy of those allegations, but quite often in politics, perception becomes reality, and can come to have a material force regardless of the truth behind them.
Such rumours however can play quite well into existing fears amongst significant sectors of the population that the OBA are a reconstituted Forty Thieves out to re-establish the old friends and family plans of the oligarchy.
Apparent revelations that the OBA/BHB (at best) mislead the people, combined with rumours of talks with private interests about selling off the facility, well, it doesn’t look good at all and risked causing a particularly damaging scandal for the OBA.
On the one hand, I commend the OBA for acknowledging a popular outcry.
On the other hand, I can’t help but think that this ‘u-turn’ is more of a pragmatic damage control exercise, a recognition that they risked a full-out scandal and a loss of popular legitimacy.
Personally, I feel that the latter (damage control) is the more likely explanation.
However, the two go hand in hand.
Without the people applying pressure, without the Opposition channeling that pressure also, I doubt the media would have persisted in their investigations and I doubt the document questioning the reasoning for closure would have been released.
This is good.
To see the people applying pressure and to see that pressure effect change, is good.
I hope it sets a precedent, and something to build on.
Options For Lamb Foggo UCC?
I’m still reading over the documents that have been released over the last 48 hours regarding the UCC, going back as far as 2007.
I also want to review some of the older documents, such as the 1996 Oughton Review, which laid the foundation for the establishment of the UCC.
On a first review, I feel reinforced in my opinion that the current BHB had a lack of vision as regards the Lamb Foggo UCC, and seemed almost biased in favour of privatising the UCC rather than considering, fully, alternative options.
From my perspective, and keeping in mind the reduced capacity of the future Emergency Department, I would have thought it would have made sense to:
1) Establish an ambulance aspect to the UCC staffed with paramedics.
2) Transfer the existing public clinic facilities in St Georges to a consolidated clinic (including dental services) to the UCC.
3) Investigate cost-cutting measures such as a different mix of staff at the UCC to reduce overall costs.
4) Revisit the decision to terminate diagnostic services there.
5) Bring the UCC up to the standard I assumed it was – a satellite emergency room.
6) Institute some specialised units there to take the pressure of KEMH. I’m thinking here that cosmetic surgery (tying in with the whole medical tourism idea) could be based there, but also specialised services such as a hearing clinic or sickle cell treatment.
7) Consider installing a decompression chamber there to further support the East End as a tourism hub, particularly for SCUBA diving.