Business View Caribbean interviews Venetta Symonds, CEO of Bermuda Hospitals Board, as part of Best practices in Bermuda Business.
Bermuda Hospitals Board ensures the highest-quality healthcare.
Bermuda is comprised of a chain of more than 150 small islands which collectively encompass a land mass of less than 21 square miles amidst an area of the North Atlantic Ocean. All are in greater proximity to the United States and Canada than the counterparts of the Caribbean with which the territory is often associated. North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras is located some 640 miles west-northwest of Bermuda while Nova Scotia’s Cape Sable Island is less than 800 miles away to the north.
Primarily British, Bermuda has historically enjoyed strong political and economic ties to both the U.S. and Canada, yet given the similarities in cultural, environmental and socio-economic factors, Bermuda has also maintained status since 2003 as an associate member of CARICOM, a federation of Caribbean communities who collaborate on strategies to enhance economic prosperity throughout the region.
Bermuda, with a population of less than 65,000, has historically enjoyed having one of the best income per capita rates in the world. Tourism has been a long-standing part of the economy, accounting for about 15 percent of its current gross domestic product. It is also a leading international offshore financial center, and is the third largest insurance and reinsurance center after New York and London.
Political stability, a dependable energy infrastructure and quality telecommunication systems all contribute to a high quality of life, and residents and visitors also benefit from having ready access to a full spectrum of medical services fulfilled by dedicated and qualified medical professionals.
Acute care hospital and mental health services are delivered by Bermuda Hospitals Board, a quasi-autonomous, non-government management body under the Bermuda Hospitals Board Act. A government-appointed board is mandated to provide strategic governance and ensure sound financial management, while day-to-day activities are driven by senior management and staff. BHB delivers acute care services from the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, a small urgent care service from the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre, and mental health, learning disability and substance abuse services from the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Centre.
According to CEO/President Venetta Symonds, the focus of Bermuda Hospitals Board is on the needs of patients, and services are strategically planned around the island’s healthcare requirements. Symonds said this drives staff to achieve the highest evidence-based standards in the delivery of services. It requires extensive collaboration with other healthcare partners in Bermuda to seek health system reforms to ensure quality and affordability. Strategic aims at BHB are underpinned through organizational values that include respect for all, integrity, serving the interests of patients, families and the community-at-large.
“We aspire to be the best in all we do,” she said.
The services delivered by Bermuda Hospitals Board and the professionals affiliated with the delivery of care save lives every day, and improvements in services constantly improve patient outcomes and patient satisfaction. Beyond the patients who depend on such services, healthcare also represents one of the most fundamental pillars of Bermuda’s public spending. BHB employs about 1,800 people and is the second largest employer in Bermuda, after the government. About 44 percent of healthcare costs relate to the hospital, as it is the only provider of acute care services.
BHB has a long standing scholarship program to support future generations of healthcare workers. For young Bermudans striving toward a career in healthcare, BHB awards more than $100,000 each year in scholarship funding. It also supports a variety of community programs that promote greater awareness and understanding of health concerns in the market. BHB services are, therefore, not limited to what transpires in the lab, emergency room or acute care wing, but rather throughout services and support which permeate throughout the country.
Delivering such a range of services is not without its challenges, because there are no other hospitals on island. Bermuda, like others throughout the region, has been impacted by economic challenges. Maintaining state-of-the-art infrastructure as well as highly-trained specialists and other personnel to fulfill critical services comes at a cost. As BHB Chairman Jonathan Brewin said, it can be very challenging when there is a legislative mandate to provide services without the convenience of funding. BHB is tasked with not only providing health services, but also ensuring service costs are met in such a way that is sustainable and affordable for the patients they treat. This is a challenge in the current economic environment and, under the guidance of its chief finance officer, BHB is implementing a financial sustainability strategy to ensure that it can deliver services in the years and decades ahead.
This will require hard decisions to be made about which services are delivered by BHB, and a process of reshaping the service profile is already under way. A public outcry resulted when BHB decided to withdraw its out of hours urgent care service from the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre, because it was operating at a loss. Although the government requested BHB keep the service going, it has been agreed that an alternative provider will be sought.
Construction of an acute care wing was completed and the new facility connect through to the existing KEMH facility. Existing acute care services, including emergency, diagnostic imaging, acute care inpatient units, surgery, dialysis and oncology will transfer to the new build.
The work will result in the delivery of a new state-of-the-art acute care wing. An atrium, therapeutic garden area and other architectural elements combine to impart an aesthetic allure atypical of that usually found in such healthcare buildings, and the facility takes full advantage of ocean views toward the capital city of Hamilton, and over the Bermuda Botanical Gardens to the south shore.
This is Bermuda’s first public private partnership. Selected after a rigorous procurement process, the private partner was Paget Healthcare Services, a consortia which includes the local construction company BCM McAlpine. The project has won two international awards recognizing the robustness of the procurement process, as well as the quality of the design.
The building has been designed to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, and will also adhere to LEED standards, in keeping with BHB’s intent to mitigate impacts on the environment. And while those standards are eco-sensitive, they also deploy solutions to conserve on the consumption of resources such as water and electricity; solutions which ultimately help BHB also curtail operating costs.
Recognition of the quality of healthcare in Bermuda has advanced far beyond Bermuda. In addition to holding accreditation from Accreditation Canada, BHB’s mammography services have been accredited by the American College of Radiology and the pathology services have been accredited by Joint Commission International. The BHB has overseen the creation of a state-of-the-art intensive care unit at KEMH, an internationally leading center for the treating of diabetes, and, with respect to the mental health program at Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, it has garnered distinction as a training site for psychiatric residents affiliated with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The hyperbaric therapy services have been accredited by Divers Alert Network International, and there’s even an organ donor program which has been heralded among those reflecting best industry practices.