They’ve done the right thing – now for the next battle

UPDATE: So Government has done the right thing and said it would withdraw the legislation as it referred to mammograms.


A short statement from the Health Minister said:

Let me first thank all of you for taking the time to demonstrate how concerned you are about this issue. The increased awareness of women, in particular, around our healthcare issues is critical. I want to assure you that I hear and understand your concerns. I have been listening and discussing these issues with various groups and this has been very productive. Tomorrow’s debate will focus on the positive changes we are making to the standard health benefit. Rest assured, your concerns will be taken fully into account. I believe we have a unique opportunity to achieve an even greater awareness of all of the issues and encourage the women of Bermuda to start a conversation with their doctors about what is best for them.

Part of the development of policy involves creating an understanding around why we Institute changes and how they will benefit the people. I intend to take the opportunity to do that and so the bill to be debated tomorrow will be one that does NOT change the current policy on the coverage for mammography screening. This has always been about clinical guidelines and adopting an approach that empowers women to make choices based on their individual needs and in consultation with their physicians to improve their health outcomes and reduce their risks.

It could, of course, all have been avoided if Government knew how to communicate effectively.

The debate over mammograms has also clouded the other issue that was included in the Minister’s original statement: the dire state of the hospital’s finances

John Barritt says it best today in his column. I cannot improve on it.


I cannot help but think that the mess Government finds itself in over the issue of mammograms is totally of its own making.

Such a move cannot be announced via a cold, analytical statement to MPs in the House of Assembly. It is an extremely emotive issue, yet because of the approach it has taken, it appears as if Government is being cold-blooded and heartless.

There is/has been no empathy.

mamm Breast screening

It also appears that even doctors are not in favour and The Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre seems to have doubts, saying in a press release: Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre will continue to follow the recommendations of the American Cancer Society for screening for breast cancer, which is, for women to begin annual screening at 40 years of age and to continue for as long as they are in good health and wish to carry on screening.

I understand fully that health costs need to be reined in, however I do not think that picking such an emotive issue is the right one to pick. Nor do I quite understand why it has to be legislated for – why can’t Government issue new guidelines?

Government should do the right thing and announce that it will withdraw the legislation until it has consulted more fully and until it can actually find a way to communicate properly.

6 thoughts on “They’ve done the right thing – now for the next battle

Add yours

  1. I agreed that the PR on this could and should have been handled better.
    It is a difficult issue because the arguments in favour of the change, while compelling, are all based on statistics while the arguments against are more anecdotal but are still genuine – “no matter what the statistics say, what if I am the one person whose early diagnosis is missed and I die?”
    I am going to be criticised for this, but Bermuda Cancer and Health has a genuine interest in the frequency of doing mammograms, as do radiologists. Many physicians do not support starting mammograms at 40 including the local oncologist(s), unless the person is high risk or breast exams have given cause for concern.
    Cathy Michelmore’s article today is sensitive and balanced and well worth reading.

    1. You may be right, but that message has not been communicated effectively (at all…) and I do think Govt has to start again. You cannot fight an emotive arguments with statistics …

  2. Having done some skimming over various medical and scientific articles on the subject, I’m okay with the changes. They seem backed up by evidence.

    But yeah, they’ve handled this horribly.

    They should’ve done some ‘softening up’ of public opinion – have BHeC, say, release a PR piece about it as an option, encourage public feedback. They could’ve released a policy brief and a range of options (ie. Status Quo, the preferred option, something else). Other groups supportive of it could also release some PR pieces, and allow those opposed to it to voice counter-points. And then, depending on the feedback, release a statement “we’ve listened to the people, and we’re going to do X”.

    All they’be done instead is one heck of an own-goal.

    I think the Gov’s best option right now is to announce a pull-back and launch the consultation process they should’ve done in the first place. And maybe in a year from now, as a cooling off period, look to it again.

    1. Agreed. It is amazing that in this day and age, that a Minister should announce something on such an emotional subject in such a throwaway way as a few lines in a Ministerial statement. Unbelievable. It delivers an appalling message.

  3. Have to agree that this has been handled badly. The particular Minister should have known better.

    Of course, it is an emotive issue – but then so is any other health issue that can have the impact on lives that cancer (and other diseases) has, so I question whether the fact that it is emotive should be the basis for “taking it slowly” and consulting longer and wider.

    Instead, the Govt should really have recognised that It is always difficult to “take something away”, and that when you do, the facts tend to get lost as in this case.

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