‘Elated’ St David’s PLP MP Lovitta Foggo. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
‘Elated’ St David’s PLP MP Lovitta Foggo. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead

MP Lovitta Foggo last night expressed her constituents’ “elation” at an 11th hour reprieve for the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre.

Government yesterday announced a U-turn on the closure and says it will seek a long-term solution.

Ms Foggo said: “This is excellent news and a win for the people, particularly for the east end and for Bermuda overall.

“I’m happy the Minister is going to look at the financial package, but the concern is, are we being offered a permanent solution? Anything less than this is unacceptable.”

A protest march is still set to go ahead as planned today. A petition of 3,000 signatures will be presented to Premier Craig Cannonier and Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin

A Government U-turn on the closure of the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre (UCC) followed accusations directed at the Health Minister yesterday.

In the morning Zane DeSilva, Shadow Health Minister, accused Patricia Gordon-Pamplin of “misleading Bermudians about the financial performance [of the UCC]”.

He said figures in a report — the Bermuda Hospital Board’s (BHB) Strategic Assessment Business Case — stated the UCC had a $104,000 surplus in 2012-13. From April to July this year, it then had a surplus of $95,000.

The BHB and Government’s justification for closing the UCC was that it was losing $250,000 a year.

Mr DeSilva said the surplus figures, totalling $199,294, showed the UCC was “operating at a profit”, but that the Health Minister had stated a week ago in Parliament that it was losing $250,000 a year.

He suggested privatizing the centre would be “very profitable” and that the minister herself had admitted to “private, non-transparent meetings with unnamed physicians about taking over the facility”.

“It all gives the impression that the OBA is more interested in hooking up their friends and family than in protecting access to healthcare for the people of the east end,” he said.

Mr DeSilva said unless Ms Gordon-Pamplin “correct the record in Parliament” she should be removed from her post...for misleading the people of this country,” he said. 

A BHB spokeswoman said the revenue/loss figures “did not include other operating costs — including insurance — which were expected to exceed even the small surplus made in 2012-13... It is anticipated that even the 2012-13 surplus will mostly be used up once all factors are considered,” she said

But yesterday afternoon however, Premier Craig Cannonier joined Ms Gordon-Pamplin, in announcing the U-turn.

“I’m here today to let the people of Bermuda know we are here to listen and we have heard you,” he said. 

Mr Cannonier, as a native of St David’s, said he had lived through the power cuts which lasted weeks after Hurricane Emily, and coming home to “a bucket and still using candles”.

He added: “I believe together we will find a solution in the next few months to make this work.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “My colleagues and I have paid very close attention to what people have been saying about the planned closure of the clinic. 

“We have listened to their concerns, we recognize their needs and we understand their fears, particularly as they relate to the needs of the east end in the event of a natural disaster that cuts off access to medical and hospital-based resources.

Alternative plan

“As a result, and in consultation with my colleagues, I have directed the Bermuda Hospitals Board to keep the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre open until an alternative plan is worked out that meets the needs of the people of the east end.

“I cannot provide you with a timeframe as to when that will come about, but I want the people of the east end to rest assured that the facility will continue to be there for them until an acceptable and financially viable alternative arrangement is in place that meets their needs.

“We are going to make this situation work, notwithstanding the difficulties and financial constraints.” 

Reacting to criticism earlier in the day from Mr DeSilva, following a ZBM news report which showed a report saying the UCC was in the black this year, she said: “That information was included in my ministerial statement (last week).”

She said: “Because last year’s loss was unaudited I can understand the decision by the Bermuda Hospitals Board, notwithstanding the $109,000 showing as a surplus. We would certainly understand the hospital board being concerned because of the lack of audited financial statements.

“The hospitals board is in a very dire financial situation, they made the initial decision and with the numbers provided to me, I supported the decision, primarily because they needed to find ways to make the money work.

“...They (BHB) will operate this as a loss — there is no question — but we are more concerned about the people and healthcare of people in the east end, rather than a long-term deficit in the BHB.”

She said the proposal to close the clinic was “put forward by the BHB: “Having seen the public outcry, I’m not afraid to admit I had to have a rethink in regards to what Government was demanding.”

She added that the OBA’s pre-election pledge to establish an ambulance station in the east end was still being discussed.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said some of the PLP proposals for the centre’s operation (see page 5) are “valuable to the process. I will never throw out the baby with the bathwater”, she said, adding the BHB needed “to reevaluate its business plan” and examine alternative options.

But she added: “It would have been pertinent for our former government to have looked at this situation in prior times, so we aren’t in this position today.”

She said that in the original business plan, there was a plan to cover any shortfall in visitor numbers with a government grant, but this was never forthcoming: “From the commencement of operations not a dime was put in, so when we come four years down the road, we find there’s no money to help keep the thing going.

“I don’t have an issue taking the criticism, that this is a decision we have to make, but if the money had been paid in already, to the original business plan, we would have been having a different discussion today.”