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An internal memorandum in the Public Hospitals Authority  approving a fee on dialysis wheelchair service stirred  up quite a hornet’s nest, with one opposition politician demanding that the policy be  reversed immediately.

Responding to an August 9th communication from Jeffrey Henfield, Superintendent of the Transport Department, Princess Margaret Hospital Administrator, M.E. Lightbourne Walker, indicated that a request for the above proposal had been “reviewed and supported” – albeit with stipulations.

Those stipulations include that there be a one-way charge of $25 and that’s to or from the dialysis unit.

There’d be a $50 roundtrip charge to and from the unit, translating to a weekly fee of $150.

There’s a proposed start date of Monday, September 3rd.

The letter further stipulates that customers desirous of using the service must pay at the business office and provide their receipt prior to transport.

A number of dialysis patients or those with relatives on dialysis called into the  Love 97 Radio  daily talk show “Issues of the Day” bemoaning the new charge.

“I have a wife on dialysis, I know what the situation is with a person on dialysis, I know what they go through, because I deal with my wife everyday with that sickness,” one caller said.  

“This government they need mercy man, if the Prime Minister’s listening to this today, Mr. Prime Minister, let me tell you something, people in Grand Bahama, they are hurting,” he added.

Another caller said, “I feel saddened to hear what’s happening over there.”

“Hebrews 9:27 says its appointed unto man once to die,  after this judgement, so these rascals who doing people like that have to realize that, one day they have to stand before God and give an account,” he said. 

“A person got to pay $50, who got to come to you in the first place to get free service, they’re coming to you for free service,  but they got to pay $50 to get from point  A  to point B,” said another caller.

Progressive Liberal Party, MP Glenys Hanna-Martin also registered her disgust and dismay, charging that it is becoming clear that more and more life is becoming brutish and bitter for many at the bottom of the economic pile in the country. “What message is this government sending to very sick and poor people?” she asked.

“How can any group in good conscience, she questioned, sit around a cabinet table and accord to themselves more benefits and turn around and add unbearable pressure on the most vulnerable. This  is wrong,” said Mrs Hanna-Martin.

Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands called into the  “Issues of the Day Show” to  defend the decision on the fees. 

The Minister claimed (unlike the PHA letter stated) that the fees related to transportation to and from the homes of patients.

He said, “the gazetted fees for dialysis that has existed since the services have been provided is supposed to be $275 per dialysis session per patient, which for all intents and purposes works out to just shy of $1,000 a week,” he said.

“We  collect less than, I’m advised, less than $500,000 for the $ 25 million  worth of dialysis services. The transportation is not one of the mandated services,” he said.

Dr. Sands added that a van was donated to collect dialysis patients to receive treatment.

However, that van fell into disrepair prior to the current administration taking office.

The government is seeking to re-establish a concierge service to assist dialysis patients.

Dr. Sands added that while he would love to be able to provide services at no cost,  this year he has a $50 million shortfall.

“I  am in agreement that if we provide  a service which is unbudgeted, then the only way that we can provide that service is if we have the revenue to match the service, and what that service costs is to be determined and that is why a leaked internal document does not further the transformation of our health care system,” he said.

  Some 463 people are reportedly on dialysis at a total cost of between $50,000  and $80,000  per patient a year, that’s a rough total of some $25 million annually to taxpayers.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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