In early 2015, the MS Society of Bermuda got in touch with the National MS Society (USA) to ask for help with planning and delivering a continuing medical education (CME) program for healthcare professionals (HCPs) and an educational program for people with MS and their caregivers.
Kathy Costello, Vice President Healthcare Access at the National MS Society told us more about this.
“After reviewing the proposed work with senior leadership, it was decided that we would pursue this collaborative effort. I met regularly with Stanley Ingham and Carolyn Anderson from the Bermuda MS Society to plan a two-day conference. Through this process, I learned a great deal about healthcare in Bermuda.
Healthcare in Bermuda
Although Bermuda it is considered British, it is actually semi-independent. Bermuda is classified as a British Overseas Territory, but it is the oldest British colony. It has parliamentary government. The medical system is complex with both private insurance and government funded healthcare. Many people have HCPs in the US or Canada and see them on a regular basis.
Access to medications is also complex and not all medications (including disease modifying therapies) are available on the island. Some medications are imported from the US, some from the Caribbean and some from Europe. Health care costs have escalated and disparities exist. The Minister of Health was very interested in the needs of people with MS and the medications needed because she is trying to improve access, while lowering costs at the same time.
At the end of June 2015, the conference took place. The first day was dedicated to healthcare professionals. It was attended by approximately 40 people, including the only neurologist on the island, the Head of Emergency Services for one of the two hospitals, the island infusion nurse, primary care MDs, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and a pharmacist. The Bermuda Minister of Health gave opening remarks and stayed for the program so that she could learn more about MS to ensure that those living with MS have access to treatments, medications and services. The program was very well received and on the evaluation forms many requested that we do something like this again in the future.
The second day was attended by people with MS and their caregivers. Topics included an overview of MS and treatments and presentations on symptoms, which were approached with a focus on wellness. Many participants said it was the most they had learned about MS since their diagnosis, which for some was 7-10 years ago.
Both days of the program were very successful and in fact, for some, even life changing. Participants will receive flash drives with further information about all of the areas discussed at the conference.
I am happy that we were able to provide assistance and collaborate with the Bermudians to help people with MS become better informed and hopefully more empowered to make health care decisions and lifestyle choices.”