*File photo
*File photo

East End residents will be glad the Lamb-Foggo Urgent Care Centre has been given another year of life so that the Bermuda Hospitals Board and the Ministry of Health can consider their options in this distracting dilemma.  

But people have to think about the longer term. Even though the Centre is operating on reduced hours, it continues to be under-utilized.  In his statement to the House of Assembly last week, the Minister of Health said it has seen an average of 14 people per shift, but this number has sometimes dropped down to 10 to 12 visitors.

I think the community is making a mistake about what’s going on with this facility. It has been cast by the Opposition as a kind of One Bermuda Alliance vs the People of the East End battle, but that’s not what it is at all.  The OBA has as much caring feeling for the people of the East End as anyone.  

This is really a community problem, in which we all share responsibility for figuring out how to deal with a White Elephant that was misconceived right from the very start. It cost $7.5 million to build and equip. If it were a store selling groceries, the low number of customers it has been getting would have put it into bankruptcy a long time ago.

Especially in a country that has the kind of crushing debt Bermuda has, not fixing it is a crazy extravagance. It’s like not fixing a gas leak in the car, or the boat, so that money constantly drips onto the ground, or into the ocean. We just can’t afford that kind of waste.

It might be okay if the financial burden fell only on East Enders, but it doesn’t.  The bulk of the waste comes out of the pockets of people from the East all the way to Dockyard and everywhere in between.

Something has to change, that’s obvious!

But east-enders also need to have access to healthcare, so that has to be part of the change.  The Health Minister said that among the schemes being looked into are moving the Department of Health’s Public Health Clinics from their small and very old facility in St. George to the Lamb Foggo building.  At the moment, that facility provides maternal and child health clinics, dental clinics, and wellness clinics for seniors.

While the Department of Health Clinics would not provide Urgent Care services, their regular clinics could operate in a facility that is newer and much more modern than their current location. The Lamb Foggo facility might also allow the Department to expand some of its offerings and to use the St George facility for other purposes.

As far as Urgent Care services are concerned, the Ministry of Health is working with the Ministry of National Security to explore the feasibility of deploying Ambulance Services out of the East End and West End Port Royal stations which are now operated by the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service. 

The co-location of Bermuda Hospitals Board and Bermuda Fire Service Personnel at the satellite stations would shorten the response and transporting of medical emergencies to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

I will be working both with my constituents and with the Minister on creative solutions to this problem, and will report back to the people of the East End whenever I can. 

Nandi Outerbridge is the OBA MP for St George’s West