More than 100 Cayman Islands civil servants gathered Wednesday night to debate the benefits and drawbacks of recommendations in a recent consultant’s report that proposed government cutbacks and outsourcing in dozens of public sector agencies.
If all recommendations in the Ernst & Young consultancy evaluation were implemented, hundreds of government jobs, and entire government departments in some cases, would be taken over by the private sector. In addition, other government entities would be sold off or closed down.
Civil Service Association President James Watler said not all proposals in the EY evaluation were opposed by civil servants; some were supported during Wednesday’s meeting at Mary Miller Hall. However, he noted there were a number of areas of concern expressed during the closed-door meeting.
“One of the things that EY seems to have forgotten is the social responsibility of a government,” Mr. Watler said. “I think the premier and his colleagues are cognizant of that.
“We are not being alarmists, but there seems to be contradictions in there, disclaimers,” he said. “Why would you farm out something that would potentially fail [in the private sector]? It’s going to fall back in [government’s] lap.”
For instance, a top priority recommendation made by EY reviewers was to consider outsourcing the medical operations of the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town and Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac, along with associated government health clinics.
Such a move would bring high-quality employees and healthcare professionals with specialist knowledge, and also help to recover the Health Services Authority’s current $55 million in bad debts, the EY report opined. However, EY reviewers noted there would be difficulty in attracting such a third party group because of the “small scale of the George Town hospital operation.” Also, if the third party contractor failed, the government would be required to resume control of the public hospital system. This option was placed in the “medium term” for implementation.
A potentially quicker option would be to establish a “joint venture operation” between the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company and a private sector company. EY recommends this could be done in the short term and would enable CINICO to compete on a “more equal footing” with private sector medical insurers. It would also mean far fewer government employees involved in the provision of healthcare services.
The EY report notes there was likely to be push back from private sector companies that did not want the competition that taking such a step might bring. There would also be “potential for discontent amongst [the] civil service for the introduction of deductibles and/or co-pay charges” on health insurance policies. The government service currently receives 100 percent coverage on its healthcare benefits.
Mr. Watler said he has been around long enough to remember the days of Caribbean Home Insurance, which ensured the civil servants’ healthcare plans during one period of the 1980s and early 1990s.
“And one night, it disappeared,” he said. “My family was on one of those plans.”
The good news from the perspective of civil servants attending Wednesday’s meeting was assurances from government ministers that no final decisions had been made on the EY recommendations, giving the association time to provide government with members’ views. An online and printed survey was making the rounds in the civil service, and Mr. Watler said a report from Wednesday’s meeting would also be given to government. “We have a healthy debate going,” he said.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has said that only the recommendations from the EY report that receive Cabinet approval would be taken forward to the implementation stage. The person in charge of implementing those recommendations for the government is former Education Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues.