February 14, 2010
Dear Bahamas Press,
Happy Valentines Day. I was astounded to read Tribune staff reporter Alison Lowe’s February 13 story, “Sands hits back over NHI position”. Dr. Duane Sands characterized PLP statements of his anti-NHI position “as a smear campaign against his character”.
In my February 6/10 letter to you, I clearly outlined my interpretation of Dr. Sand’s position on NHI, highlighted in an April 2006 presentation he made to the Rotary Club. In reviewing that same presentation again, it is crystal clear that Dr. Sand’s position was to “kill the bill” (NHI), and quoting him, “as responsible senior physicians who serve as integral parts of the healthcare system, we feel it is our duty to ensure that the plan is either not implemented”. Furthermore, Dr. Sand’s position he so eloquently articulated in his Rotary address was given prominent play by that bastion of right wing conservatism, The Nassau Institute. This group is a forceful advocate of laissez – faire (non-government involvement) in the health care debate. Dr. Duane Sands ( the doctor) was much closer to the Nassau Institute’s position on NHI than the PLP’s position who were pushing a government supported, universal coverage plan.
But I understand Dr. Sand’s position now. His entry into frontline politics has forced him to step down from his ivory tower. As he moves around the Elizabeth constituency and sees firsthand the pain and suffering ordinary Bahamians are experiencing, he now knows that he cannot afford to be a blocker of NHI with vague and tepid comments, “we doctors support NHI, but, —-.” Dr. Sands (the politician), has to now accept, that with the concept of universal health coverage, there is no perfect plan. Accusations of waste and inefficiency have plagued Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) for years. But NHS occupies such a sacred place in the national psyche of the British, that both major political parties only talk of reforming and strengthening the system. Any talk of abolishing NHS is political suicide.
There should be no doubt that Dr. Duane Sands ( the doctor) as a bright, Bahamian, medical mind had a wonderful opportunity to assist the country with taking care of its less fortunate citizens who have no health insurance. He would have known that a substantial body of research has shown that health coverage can improve health outcomes. For instance, studies by the American Cancer Society have found that the uninsured are significantly more likely than those with private insurance to be diagnosed with cancer in late stages, rather than early stages. I said in my earlier letter to you that Dr. Sands, chose not to listen or worse, even care.
Dr. Sands, like his American medical counterparts followed a blocking strategy on the implementation of NHI with “double speak”, “I support it, but not in its current form”. Meanwhile, as Dr. Sands raised his arguments against NHI filled with technical jargon on form and substance, Bahamians without health insurance continued to go to bed each night with worry about being sick, broke and alone. My Valentine, Elizabeth is waiting for Dr. Sands to come courting.