THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10: Health Minister Zane De Silva today said that legislation to axe upfront charges for medical treatment was being prepared.

Premier Paula Cox’s Throne Speech pledged that no one should have to forgo medical treatment because they could not afford to pay in advance and wait for an insurance cheque.

Mr De Silva said meetings had already been held with insurers and health care providers to discuss the problem.

He added: “Issues have been identified, but insurers, providers and Government have pledged to work together to overcome any obstacles to implementation of this reform.”

Mr De Silva added work was also underway on the cost of the Government-controlled Standard Hospital Benefit, which includes services at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, but not services provided outside it.

The Minister said the new Standard Health Benefit would include services beyond the King Edward’s doors and that financing methods were now being looked at.

Mr De Silva added that the three Government health clinics were also being assessed to see if their work can be expanded to provide frontline healthcare and that the use of GPs to provide care – with the patient getting some form of Government assistance – was also being looked at.

Minister of Youth, Families and Sports Glenn Blakeney added that a Throne Speech promise to help young Bermudians into the workplace were taking shape.

He added that interviews were already taking place for the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) which aims to provide jobless Bermudians aged 17 to 25 with training in a range of trades.

Mr Blakeney added that experienced tradesmen – some retired – had also been approached with a view to recruiting them at tutors.

The Minister said the scheme’s first project would be renewing the verandah area at the National Trust’s Springfield property in Sandys, which is leased to Government for use as a community centre.

He added that – at the other end of the scale – the Human Rights Act of 1981 would be amended to tackle discrimination based on age.

In addition, Mr Blakeney said that strict rules banning homeowners, including seniors, from the Government Financial Assistance programme would also be reviewed.

He said the current system was “unduly punitive” – and promised to seek amendments “where seniors are rendered ineligible for financial assistance based on circumstances where they own their own home, but would otherwise qualify for assistance.”