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Projected Contraction in Tourism Activity to have Adverse Impact on the Bahamas’ Foreign Exchange Reserves Position

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#NASSAU, The Bahamas — March 19, 2020 — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Peter Turnquest stated that the projected contraction in tourism activity will inevitably have an adverse impact on The Bahamas’ foreign exchange reserves position, which stood at a healthy $2,030 million at mid-March 2020.

“Based on preliminary projections, external reserves could decline by some $900 million by end-2020, DPM Turnquest explained as he presented the Statement on the Fiscal and Economic Impact of COVID-19 in the House of Assembly, Wednesday, March 18, 2020

“Under this scenario, the country would still have a manageable level of foreign reserves. However, the Central Bank will continue to monitor and judiciously manage the reserve holdings.”

He said the Ministry of Finance will support the measures that the Central Bank adopts to ensure that the country’s foreign reserve holdings remain adequate for ongoing financial and commercial needs.

Government Package of Policy Measures to Deal with Economic Impact of COVID-19

The DPM explained that the Government has adopted a package of policy measures to deal with the tremendous economic impact of COVID-19 that is already starting to be felt as hotel occupancies have fallen, as cruise ship arrivals are on a 30-day hiatus, and as hotel workers are being asked to take unpaid or vacation leave.

“These provisions have been put in place first and foremost to protect public health. They will also provide a safety net for individuals as we ride out this turmoil together.”

He stated that in addition to the nearly $5 million the Government has already earmarked for healthcare response, we are allocating up to an additional $11 million to cover detection, isolation, treatment and other COVID-19 mitigation activities.

DPM Turnquest said the Government is setting aside $4 million to provide food assistance and social support for displaced workers directly impacted by the virus, through the Ministry of Social Services.

“These food assistance vouchers, of $100 every second week will be targeted primarily to persons within the hospitality industry who are facing reduced work weeks.”

He also explained that the Government is allocating $10 million to provide for a temporary unemployment benefit, administered through the National Insurance Board, for self-employed persons working in the tourism industry.

“Self-employed persons, such as straw vendors, tour operators, Jet Ski operators, do not ordinarily qualify for the National Insurance unemployment benefit as part of their benefits package.

“However, the Government is making a special accommodation for those self-employed individuals in the tourism industry, given the unprecedented COVID-19 impact.”

The DPM added that for persons in this category, the Government will offer a sponsored unemployment assistance of $200 per week, for up to eight weeks. To qualify, these self-employed persons must be currently registered with NIB or they must register at the time of application for this benefit. The time frame for this benefit may be adjusted according to need.

He said under the normal provisions of the NIB insurance scheme, individuals who contract COVID-19 or are quarantined because of exposure or suspected exposure will be eligible for sickness benefits.

DPM Turnquest added that individuals who are temporarily laid off because of the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be eligible for unemployment benefits, up to the regular 13-week period, if necessary.

“NIB published information on this yesterday to remind persons of these benefits already available to them under the NIB programme. The government encourages all persons who are eligible to contact NIB.”

He explained that the Government has requested that Water and Sewerage reconnect all recently disconnected services for residential customers to ensure that personal hygiene is not compromised.

“Further, the government is also directing both Water & Sewerage and BPL to defer payment of bills – for an initial period of three months for residential customers who are diagnosed with the virus, who are in quarantine, or have been laid off.

“I must stress that this allowance is for this specific group of persons and that it is important that these impacted persons contact BPL and Water & Sewerage to register for this benefit and verify their situation as necessary.”

He said the Ministry has included the Clearing Banks Association in its consultation on the proposed mitigating measures to address the current situation.

“The banks have reiterated to me their commitment to helping their clients through challenging times. They have advised that if persons are experiencing financial difficulties during this period, that they should contact their banks to understand the options that are available to them, such as payment deferrals, credit limit increases, or other measures to offer temporary relief.

“As this issue progresses, the banks have stated their intent to offer more tailored products and services to persons who financially are negatively impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19.”

The DPM said, “The banks have however stressed that for now, it is important that clients who – because of their changing circumstances – find themselves in financial duress, that these customers should go in before they fall into arrears so that their specific situation can be assessed and addressed within the range of the banks’ available tools.”

BIS NEWS By Llonella Gilbert

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Prime Minister Davis: New US Embassy Compound represents ‘our commitment to mutually beneficial ties between our nations’

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Turks and Caicos Leaders attend official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Nassau, Bahamas

 

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said, on June 28, 2024, that it was a “great honour” to join in celebration of the 248th anniversary of the United States’ Independence, and festivities of the New Embassy Compound Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony.

“On behalf of the Bahamian people, we wish the people of the USA a Happy Independence,” Prime Minister Davis said, during his Official Remarks at the event, held on the grounds of the new compound. “As we join you in celebrating 248 years of a successful and thriving democracy, I also extend a warm welcome to the new Chargé d’Affaires Kimberly Furnish and thank the U.S. Embassy for hosting this event, affording us this moment to celebrate with one another.”

He added: “This evening is particularly special as we gather to cut the ribbon for this beautiful new Embassy here in Downtown Nassau. This new building represents our commitment to mutually beneficial ties between our nations. It is a symbol of our enduring friendship as neighbours, as allies in pursuit of a better world, and as collaborators building a brighter and better future together.”

Among those present were Governor General of The Bahamas Her Excellency the Most Hon. Dame Cynthia Pratt; Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands her Excellency Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam; Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands the Hon. Charles Washington Misick; Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Fred Mitchell; Hon. Mr. Chief Justice of The Bahamas Sir Ian Winder; Director of Intelligence and Information for North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command Brigadier General Maurizio D. Calabrese; and US Department of State Overseas Building Operations Principal Deputy Director J. Douglas Dykhouse.

Prime Minister Davis noted: “As we reflect on tonight’s theme, ‘Our Shared Future’, I am reminded of the countless ways our nations have supported each other over the years. Whether in the aftermath of our deepest tragedies or through collaborative efforts to protect our borders, the United States has always been a steadfast ally to The Bahamas.”

“When hurricanes ravaged our islands, leaving destruction and despair in their wake, the United States was there, providing vital aid, resources, and support,” he added. “I can’t help but think of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, ‘The only way to have a friend is to be one’. The US has been a true friend to The Bahamas.”

“Moving forward, we will undoubtedly continue to maintain close ties – and not just diplomatic ties but social, cultural, and economic ties as well.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that many Bahamians visit the US on an annual basis – multiple times per year.

“And, if you were to add up all the US citizens who visit The Bahamas each year, you’d get a number that is far greater than our population,” he said. “Our nations are truly intertwined.”

“I am genuinely excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the US and The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis added. “As we deepen our friendship, we must ensure that we maintain strategic alliances on key issues to protect our interests.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that both nations faced similar issues in immigration and border control, and they also were both preparing for more extreme weather events due to worsening climate conditions. Those, he stated, were just two of the areas where they had the opportunity to work together for the common good.

“One of the most important and sacred aspects of our relationship is our shared commitment to democracy, freedom, and human rights,” Prime Minister Davis said. “These values are the bedrock of our societies, guiding our actions and shaping our futures. Together, we must continue to champion these principles, both within our borders and on the global stage.”

He added: “As we celebrate this milestone, let us also take a moment to reflect on the future we envision for our nations – a future where our collaboration leads to greater prosperity, security, and well-being for our citizens. A future where our shared values and goals continue to guide us toward a more just and equitable world.

“Together, we can achieve great things and ensure a prosperous future for both our nations.

“Thank you, and once again, Happy Independence.”

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GB’s ‘Welcome Home’ Grand Expo – July 3-10

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FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas – The Ministry for Grand Bahama has scheduled a week of activities from July 3 to 10, to encourage residents to come back home, said Minister for Grand Bahama the Hon. Ginger Moxey said during a press conference on Friday, July 28 at the Harold DeGregory Building.

Being held under the theme, “Welcoming Home GB” there are a variety of events to not only ensure the week is fun-filled, but also entertaining.

Having previously stated that Grand Bahama is on the move, Minister Moxey said that not only are there approximately $2 billion in investments on the island, but new businesses are also opening.

“We want to encourage our people to take advantage of the opportunities that are here, but we also recognize that Grand Bahama had a population of about 55,000 to 60,000 people and it’s now down to about 47,000.”

For those who live elsewhere whether in The Bahamas or other countries, there will be a week of activities to encourage residents to come home to celebrate the resilience of Grand Bahama, as well as the country’s 51st Independence celebrations.

The events are as follows: Wednesday, July 3, Fish Fry in Smith’s Point; Thursday, July 4, Goombay Summer Festival at Taino Beach; Friday, July 5, an expo on the Great Lawn at the Grand Lucayan Resort where the many opportunities will be on display, as well as an Old School Reunion that evening also at the Grand Lucayan; on Saturday, July 6, the Grand Road Race and Cultural Festival in downtown Freeport; Sunday, July 7, ’50 & Beyond’ Praise and Thanksgiving Service at Jubilee Cathedral and The West End Move; Monday, July 8, Gia Pierre’s play, “March On: The Story of Us”; Tuesday, July 9, ’50 and Beyond’ Ecumenical Service and Cultural Show at Independence Park; and the week of activities will culminate with a Family Beach Day on Wednesday, July 10, Independence Day.

 

(BIS Photo)

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PHA CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF HEALTHCARE PROGRESS

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#TheBahamas, July 2, 2024 – The establishment of the Public Hospitals Authority in 1999, following an act of Parliament one year earlier, represented a revolutionary milestone in the delivery of healthcare for The Bahamas.  Today, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) looks noticeably different than the Authority of 1999, when we were first established. Our hospital facilities are more modern; with 21st century medical technology accessible to every patient across our network of hospitals and agencies, and a cadre of clinical and allied health staff who are better trained and equipped.

We credit our exponential growth to a management philosophy that balances productivity, efficiency and accountability with prudent growth strategies that have allowed us to remain at the forefront of healthcare not only in The Bahamas, but in the region. As the Public Hospitals Authority in The Bahamas marks its 25th anniversary, it’s a time to reflect on the remarkable journey of progress and development in the healthcare sector over the past quarter-century. Established with a mission to enhance healthcare services and improve public health outcomes, the Authority has overcome numerous challenges and achieved significant milestones in its pursuit of excellence.

Challenges and Milestones

Ground Breaking Ceremony Freeport Health Campus May 2023

In its inaugural year, the Public Hospitals Authority faced a myriad of challenges, including the development and strengthening of clinical services aligned with national health programs, resolving administrative dilemmas, establishing itself as a corporate entity, and enhancing its operational procedures and policies. Identifying key areas of concern such as the shortage of qualified personnel, inadequacies in infrastructure, technology, and equipment, the Authority embarked on a journey of transformation and innovation.

Over the years the PHA has weather significant challenges including the global economic downturn and its impacts beginning in 2008, the historic destruction of hurricane Dorian and most recently the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, one of the most complex health challenges the world has ever faced.  These historic challenges were experienced by our public hospital institutions against a backdrop of longstanding constraints in resources, manpower and mitigating against aging health infrastructure and shortages in equipment.

We have emerged from these crises stronger and more responsive with lessons learned.

Strategic Initiatives

Over the years, strategic initiatives have been implemented to address these challenges and drive progress in healthcare delivery. These initiatives include enhancing planning mechanisms, strengthening information systems, improving management functions, financial systems, allied health skills, patient experience and quality improvement programs and strengthening security measures to ensure a safe and secure environment for patients and staff.

Advancements in Patient Care

Significant advancements have been made in patient care, across all our public hospitals. 25 years of PHA management has seen advances in Health Information Systems to support hospital services and patient care, new outpatient ophthalmology, family medicine, rehabilitation therapy, and Blood Bank services for PMH, extensive upgrades to the Pharmacies, Morgues, Operating Theatres and Emergency Departments at Princess Margaret Hospital and the Rand Memorial Hospital, including the most recent capital project to modernize and expand PMH emergency rooms for paediatric and adult patients and the trauma bay.

Major advances have been made in the expansion of Intensive Care services at PMH and the Rand including the PMH Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and its step-down Unit, the Special Care Baby Unit providing specialized care for newborns.

The millennium saw the introduction of neurodevelopment services, complemented by services within the NICU which has helped reduce risk factors for neurodevelopmental delays in low-birthweight infants.

The PHA prioritised the introduction of a Patient Relations program in 1997 at the Princess Margaret Hospital.  This program has been expanded with a cohort of newly engaged Patient Relations Officers graduating from a specially developed training program in 2022.

In recognition of the longstanding dearth of healthcare professionals within our system, further exacerbated by the pandemic, the Authority maintains a mutually beneficial recruitment arrangement with global health partners, most notably, the Republic of Cuba.

Enhancing Emergency Medical Services

Improvements in emergency medical services have been a priority, with the development of criteria for the registration and licensing of Emergency Medical Technicians. The National Emergency Medical Services has focused on training personnel in advanced cardiac life support and prehospital care to meet international standards.

With the establishment of the PHA Academy in 2022, the training of EMTs to be deployed in New Providence and across the Family Islands has been accelerated. The PHA continues to work with the Ministry of Health & Wellness to ensure the recruitment, training and equipping of EMTs and paramedics to meet the needs of all Bahamians.

Trib photo Ribbon Cutting of Critical Care Block 2014

Pharmaceutical and Medical/Surgical Supplies

Under the management of the PHA, the Bahamas National Drug Agency made strides in automating pharmacy management systems and updating the drug formulary to include essential medications.  The Material Management Directorate also implemented modern information systems to manage the procurement and inventory of essential hospital and clinic supplies for the PHA and Department of Public Health.

In 2016 the PHA consolidated the Bahamas National Drug Agency and the Material Management Directorate into the PHA’s Supplies Management Agency with responsibility for supply chain management of pharmaceuticals and medical/surgical supplies.  The agency occupied a fully renovated building at 51 Shirley Street with modern office spaces and warehouse facilities.  In 2022, the PHA facilitated the procurement of a larger facility on Nassau Street which serves as the new home of the Supplies Management Agency positioning this essential agency to meet the needs of our public health system for decades to come.

Expanding Mental Health Services

Mental health care has also been a focal point, with the establishment of the Community Counselling and Assessment Centre and increased support for the Crisis Centre, offering a range of services from counselling to advocacy.

In 2013 the PHA took the lead in The Bahamas’ implementation of the innovative global initiative in mental health with the World Health Organisation’s mhGAP (Mental Health Gap Action Program). Eighty-three (83) primary care doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals from the Ministry of Health, the Department of Public Health and Public Hospitals Authority adapted the mhGAP guidelines to The Bahamas health system. Primary care physicians and nurses were then trained to use the adapted guidelines, facilitating increased access to mental health services for patients accessing primary care in community clinics.

The Community Counselling and Assessment Centre was eventually relocated from its Market Street location to a fully refurbished building on Collins Ave improving conditions for both patients and staff.

Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure enhancements at our facilities have been monumental, with a comprehensive infrastructural redevelopment study leading to the Master Site Development Plan(s) for our public hospitals.

Major renovations to critical areas like the Intensive Care Unit, Operating Theatres, Surgical Recovery Room, Morgues and Burns Unit have improved patient care and facility operations significantly at the Princess Margaret Hospital and Rand Memorial Hospital.

Highlights of major capital projects completed include the construction of the Child & Adolescent, Robert Smith Special Education Complex at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, which has expanded the institution’s footprint and allowed for the improvement and repurposing of decanted spaces.   The refurbishment of Wards at the Geriatric Hospital and Sandilands Hospital as well as at outbuildings utilized as clinical and therapeutic spaces have improved the conditions for clients and staff.

The construction of the Critical Care Block at Princess Margaret Hospital represented at that time the Government’s largest investment in health infrastructure in over half a century.  The initiative was born out of the realization that societal conditions and changing demographics required the PHA to respond to the growing need for additional surgical theatres and critical care beds. This state-ofthe-art facility boasts:

  • 6 Operating Rooms
  • 1 Endoscopy Procedure Room

-18 Pre Op/PACU Beds

-20 Intensive Care Unit Beds

-62 Bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (level IIl)

  • Central Sterile Supplies Department
  • Medical Surgical Supplies Department
  • Core Laboratory
  • Meditation Area and Healing Garden

In Grand Bahama, extensive restoration works were undertaken at the Rand Memorial Hospital following Hurricane Dorian which devastated health infrastructure on the island.  Working with local and international partners community clinics and the Rand Memorial Hospital underwent extensive capital projects culminating in the recommissioning of the hospital on 23rd April 2021 with the following new spaces:

  • Complete renovation of the Front Entry Space, Pharmacy Operations, and the Lula Knowles Pediatrics Ward
  • Construction of a New Corridor to access the Medical/Surgical Ward and Healing Garden Space, along with the restoration of other main arteries of the hospital

    Ribbon Cutting at SRC Child & Adolescent Robert Smith Complex

  • Restoration of the existing Operating Theatres
  • Construction of a new 40’ Container size modular Operating Theatre Pre-Op & Procedure Room incorporated into the footprint of The Rand hospital to meet the current service needs, while awaiting the construction of a new replacement facility
  • Restoration of Inpatient ICU, Medical and Surgical Bed Spaces in the Medical/Surgical and Critical Care blocks
  • Construction of new, fully commissioned, 2,800 sq. ft. Infectious Disease Unit with seven (7) isolation spaces in response to the existing COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Completion of an upgraded Commercial Kitchen/Cafeteria Facility with a dining area
  • Demolition of the Administration and Obstetrics & Maternity Wings

Freeport Health Campus

More recently, the Ministry of Health & Wellness in collaboration with the Public Hospitals Authority held a Groundbreaking Ceremony on 16th May, 2023 for the new Freeport Health Campus in Grand Bahama. The $210 million Health Campus that will be constructed in three phases at the site off East Sunrise Highway near the Lucayan roundabout. The first phase is planned as a dedicated primary, outpatient, and urgent care centre.

The second phase will be an in-patient surgery and acute care facility providing quality care for patients with severe or urgent conditions or injuries, or patients recovering from surgery, and the final phase of the project will be the construction of medical/surgical clinical and support areas.

Future Directions

Looking ahead, the Public Hospitals Authority remains committed to advancing healthcare services in The Bahamas. With plans for new public hospital facilities in New Providence, ongoing infrastructural upgrades at existing facilities, and a continued focus on quality improvement and patient-centred care, the Authority is poised to build on its successes and further elevate the standard of healthcare delivery in the nation.  Corporate and individual citizens wishing to partner with us on this journey to improve healthcare with The Bahamas are invited to connect with our newly established PHA Foundation to learn more or get involved.

As the Public Hospitals Authority celebrates its 25th anniversary, it stands as a beacon of progress and innovation in the healthcare landscape of The Bahamas, embodying a legacy of excellence and dedication to serving the public health needs of the community.

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