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Sands doubts NHI committee will accomplish much

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: May 03, 2013

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Former Senator Dr. Duane Sands said the new steering committee on National Health Insurance (NHI) is not likely to accomplish much.

Sands said not one member of the opposition is on the proposed list of committee members.

“I was listening attentively to the composition of that committee and just as with the Blue Ribbon Commission (appointed under the previous Christie administration), it is a Progressive Liberal Party commission.

“So it will not get much accomplished,” he told The Nassau Guardian.

Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez announced in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that a 12-member steering committee will be established to oversee NHI’s implementation.

Dr. Delon Brennen, the Ministry of Health’s deputy chief medical officer, will chair the committee.

Other proposed members include Etoile Pinder, health economist; Dr. Baldwin Carey and Dr. Kevin Bowe, deputy director of medical services at the National Insurance Board.

Anthony Kikivarakis, chartered accountant; Edison Sumner, president of the Chamber of Commerce; John Pinder, Bahamas Public Service Union president; Dr. Wesley Francis; Dr. Percival McNeil; Archbishop Drexel Gomez and Dr. Valentine Grimes are also proposed members.

Sands said the government needs to change its approach.

“Unless we start dealing with bi-partisan approaches to health, education, national security and immigration, we’re not going to get very far,” Sands said.

“I was excited about the possibility that he (Dr. Gomez) would invite at least one member of the opposition to join that group.

“Unfortunately, the group lacks the will power and the strength of their conviction to believe that more than PLPs have a view of healthcare.”

Gomez said he expects a national health insurance plan to be in place a year from now.

However, Gomez said it is too early to say how much it will cost the government or how much the workforce will have to contribute through national insurance to sustain it.

Sands said the government should consider rolling out the plan incrementally as the Ingraham administration did with the National Prescription Drug Plan.

“The problem is what is the next step going to be? How aggressive is it going to be?  I support National Health Insurance, but it has to be done properly,” he said on Wednesday.

“You can not promise people the world and not have the ability to deliver it.

“So if you are willing to say to people that in exchange for better quality healthcare you are going to have to dig into your pocket and pay for it, then fine.”

In 2006, Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Act, but the plan was never implemented.

The former Christie administration said NHI could cost an estimated $235 million annually.

Gomez said last year the cost will “undoubtedly” be higher than initially expected.

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