February 6, 2010
By all accounts, Dr. Duane Sands is a brilliant and highly trained surgeon. Many wonder why he has chosen to enter the rough and tumble world of politics or why his party leader would even cajole him to do so, leaving a void in the local health community that begs for greater specialization and skills. But Dr. Sands has made his determination for a career in politics and as a result, he must subject himself to public scrutiny on his ideas, beliefs and philosophy and their impact on the public good.
In listening to him being questioned by Algernon Allen on issues of the Day, Love 97, Feb. 2, his responses on the implementation of National Health Insurance were vague, evasive and disingenuous at best. His political advisors obviously told him to say you support NHI (as the politically expedient answer). But Dr. Sand’s history as a medical practitioner and his real views on NHI, very closely parallel the objections and approach of American medical doctors on the implementation of a universal health plan (coverage for all) as defined in a NY Times article “Follow the money in the Health care debate”.
In the US, doctors, insurance and drug companies all fear that their revenues would drop significantly with the introduction of National Health Insurance. They therefore commit substantial resources to block its implementation. Since its creation in 1965, Medicare has evolved into the bedrock of health insurance for America’s elderly population. Anyone over 65 qualifies for coverage regardless of income or health status. What concerns doctors most about NHI is that like Medicare they will have to take a pay cut as Medicare pays doctors 80% of what an insurance company pays. Dr. Sand’s recent financial disclosure shows that the business of medicine has been good to him so he has a “lot of skin in the game”. There should be no wonder then that he fought so hard against the introduction of NHI, introduced by the PLP Government 2002-2007.
In the health care debate in the US and Bahamas, there has been a lot of double speak, or as Bahamians say “talking outa both sides of ya mouth”. In the US, the nation’s doctors say they wholeheartedly support health care reform, but the American Medical Association (AMA) has a long history of being opposed to legislation that threatens the status quo. The AMA opposed the creation of Medicare more than 30 years ago. Dr. Sands in his eloquent and forceful fight against NHI in Bahamas was the chief at double speak. In a March 17/06 address to the Rotary Club of East Nassau, Dr. Sands said that “the doctors (Medical Assoc. Bahamas) are not opposed to NHI, but we made it clear that we do not support the plan as currently presented”. What does that mean in real terms? Does anybody know?
Dr. Sands in his Rotary presentation also raised the question “Is health care a right or a privilege and how far should we go to guarantee this (healthcare)? In his presentation he openly questioned the cost/value of NHI. Since Dr. Sands wants to affect public policy via a switch in careers, I believe the good people of the Elizabeth constituency will answer his question on healthcare above as President Lyndon B. Johnson did in a phone conversation with his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey: “Don’t ever argue with me about healthcare. I’ll go a hundred million or a billion on health. I don’t argue about that anymore than I argue about Lady Bird (wife) buying flour. You got to have flour and sugar in your house. Healthcare, I’ll spend the goddamn money. I may cut back some tanks, but not on health”.
Dr. Sands has to be constantly reminded of his obstructionist stance on National Health Insurance for all Bahamians. His philosophy has hurt Bahamians and certainly the less fortunate who lack private insurance, in the Elizabeth constituency that he so badly wants to represent. When conservative American pundits were tearing down Britain’s National Health Service to discredit the Obama plan, Prime Minister Gordon Brown felt moved to state publically for the world to hear, that the NHS, “often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death.” Dr. Duane Sands told his Rotary audience that the debate on NHI is emotional and “requires a thorough evaluation of the core values of basic Bahamian humanity”. Yet when he had the opportunity to positively impact the implementation of NHI to achieve for the Bahamian people the noble values in an NHI plan similar to one espoused by PM Gordon Brown, Dr. Sands chose not to listen or even care. Like his medical counterparts in the United States, who characteristically block a universal health coverage plan, Dr. Sands in his objections to NHI, chose to “follow the money”. For that alone, Elizabeth must reject him on February 16, 2010.