Aiming to make a difference: Dr Kathy Michelmore, Shadow Minister for Health. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Aiming to make a difference: Dr Kathy Michelmore, Shadow Minister for Health. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1: When new Senator Kathy Michelmore was being interviewed for a place at medical school, she was asked why she had never considered politics.

Now — around 20 years later — she’s shadow Health Minister for the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) and says the new party has the prescription to cure Bermuda’s ills.

Dr Michelmore said she got into politics through supporting Mark Pettingill, one of the founders of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA), which split from the UBP in 2009.

She said: “I realised the UBP was not really a viable alternative. Mark asked me to be part of the BDA — and here I am.

“It became apparent a divided opposition would not serve Bermuda, so we took a decision to put aside the party loyalties and create something which works for the people of Bermuda. That’s why I’m committed to the OBA.

“What the OBA is doing is taking a fresh look at things — we believe we can do things differently by joining together and having a willingness to work for Bermuda rather than for political ends.

Big three issues

“Every Bermudian will tell you crime, the economy and education are the big three — and our major problems as a community are not being addressed by the current government.

“There has been a failure to accept accountability for problems of the past and an unwillingness to act decisively.

“We need to be looking at the problems facing us today, but also at how politics can evolve to serve the country better. A lot of people are disengaged from politics because they can’t see how politics is helping them.

“We need a vehicle to get them involved and that is what the OBA is designed to do.”

Dr Michelmore, an occupational health physician at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, is one of two former BDA members appointed to Senate by interim OBA leader John Barritt.

She said: “There is an assumption that because you’re new, you can’t do it — and that’s one of Bermuda’s problems. Bermuda has been constrained by the desire to see old faces and experience and that has affected our ability to respond to crises. Just because you’re new, doesn’t mean you’re not capable.

“My background means I bring a lot to the table and what it says to other Bermudians is that if you’re new and fresh and get involved, you can make a big difference.”

Dr Michelmore, 39, studied medicine in Newcastle in the north of England and won the Bermuda Rhodes scholarship, allowing a year at Magdalen College, Oxford, to complete a Ph.D.

The married mother-of-two spent around 15 years working in the UK, but returned to Bermuda in 2002.

She was a member of the Department of Health task groups which drew up guidelines for diabetes and hypertension, as well as working with the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force (BEST).

Dr Michelmore, who was deputy leader of the BDA before it merged with a group of former UBP MPs, said the biggest challenge in her health portfolio was reform of the healthcare system.

Major changes

She said: “There are going to be major changes to healthcare in Bermuda. The biggest challenge is how we fund our healthcare and funding will be linked to income.

“It has to be sustainable and the questions are how will we afford it and how we will control our spending.

“Health is a very complex issue because we have to consider so many factors — lifestyle, preventative medicine, diagnostics and treatments.

“As a medical professional, I’ve worked in the system and treat patients holistically — I’ve also got experience of other jurisdictions as well, which is helpful.

“I don’t want to criticise inappropriately because that has been one of the problems in Bermuda.

“I commend the Government for launching the national health plan and their willingness to get it out to the public and speak about it.

“What has been lacking is input from physicians — they have been asked for impressions rather than being asked to help develop the plan.

“The main challenge for Government is how to ensure comprehensive coverage for Bermudians without instituting a socialised model. I think Government has been reluctant to admit that is where they are going with the national  health plan.

 “We need to be more open and transparent about that and discuss whether that’s what Bermuda wants.

“I am a new generation of doctor who is much more open to discussion and working with patients rather than trying to be dictatorial in my advice.

“I plan to take that into the Senate — in terms of dynamics, I’m hoping it will be respectful. I will be respectful towards other people. We are going to be addressing the issues.

“We’ll take the issues to the PLP and eventually they’ll have to explain to the Bermudian public why we’re in the place we are today.

“The frustration of many Bermudians has been the unwillingness of the PLP to tackle the challenges of the position we’re in or take responsibility for that position.

“If we can’t acknowledge some of the poor decision-making which led to these conditions, it’s impossible to formulate a plan to rectify the problems.”