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Hundreds of new COVID cases over Christmas for The Bahamas; Minister talks about the enormity of the challenge

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By Dana Malcolm and Bahamas Information Services

 

#TheBahamas, December 31, 2021 – The Bahamas recorded a massive increase in COVID-19 cases over Christmas weekend.  By Wednesday, more than 500 cases were recorded, with 330 of those cases being recorded on Christmas Day alone.

All tests were taken no more than 24 to 48 hours before the results were published.

Bahamian Minister of Health Dr Michael Darville released a statement promising that they would not shut down all economic activity because of the surge but still urged Bahamians to work together to slow transmission.

Minister Darville said: “As your new minister, I have been working closely with health professionals in my Ministry over the past three months; preparing for the possibility of new waves of the virus and to better address some of the challenges we encountered during the difficult COVID-19 third wave. By way of Health Services Rules we have tightened testing at our borders to reduce the importation of new cases; while refusing to give approvals to mass gatherings throughout the country that can easily become super spreader events as the COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

He said “There are no easy answers for dealing with the coming surge in cases and care must be taken to strike the right balance between our country’s health crisis and economic well-being.”

The government also reduced gathering limits to 20 persons indoors and 30 outdoors, and Darville encouraged residents to wear their masks, especially indoors, to keep up with the required protocols.

“One of the most pressing issues we face in healthcare delivery is the shortage of nurses, doctors and support staff. I am pleased to confirm that next week we will bring on board 12 additional doctors. We are also in the final recruitment exercise to add an additional 50 specialty nurses to our healthcare system.  They will provide essential services and we pray that contracts will be finalized early next week.  Our nurses and doctors have gone beyond the call of duty despite outstanding industrial agreements. I have spoken with the Honorable Prime Minister on these outstanding matters and I assure you, negotiations will begin early next year to finalize these outstanding matters and begin the long awaited promotion exercise across the board, at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”

From Bahamas Information Services, other factors in the fight against surging COVID cases were shared.

He continued that another important component in the fight is the sourcing of new COVID-19 drugs. “We recently signed contracts to acquire these drugs including monoclonal antibodies, which have been proven to be effective for rapid recovery from the virus.”

On the acquisition of Grosvenor Close Nursing Building: “We are all aware of the space challenges we experienced during the most recent third wave of COVID-19.  I am happy to report that after negotiations with the University of The Bahamas School of Nursing, my Ministry has temporarily acquired the Grosvenor Close Nursing Building.  A contract will be awarded next week to begin the necessary renovations needed to transform that building into a much needed Infectious Diseases Ward to aid in our fight against COVID-19. At its completion we expect to be able to accommodate an additional 100 COVID-19 patients at that location.

“This additional facility will finally allow us to free up the South Beach Polyclinic.  Bringing this clinic back into service to provide essential, primary healthcare services for that community.”

With respect to testing, Minister Darville reiterated: “As discussed on numerous occasions, one key element in our fight against COVID-19 is the importance of testing. The sooner people know their status, the sooner appropriate action can be taken to isolate, provide necessary care and prevent exponential spread.

“In partnership with private sector labs, my Ministry will begin offering free Rapid Antigen Tests for asymptomatic residents at multiple centers throughout New Providence.  This is part of our ongoing pilot testing program, prior to the launch of the government’s national free testing program.  Once the digital platform is completed that would finally marry testing with contact tracing.”

Affirming the pandemic protocols important to containment of virus spread, Minister Darville reminded: “We know that this omicron variant is more than 70 times more infectious than all other variants and when someone laughs, sings, coughs, sneezes or simply breathes, the droplets they expel can spread to others who are in close proximity.  We also know that some of the droplets can linger in the air or on surfaces. This is why frequent, proper hand washing, maintaining distances of six feet from others, avoiding crowded places, cleaning and disinfecting regularly and wearing a well fitted mask indoors and outdoors around people, is important.

“As it is recommended, regardless of vaccination status, you can double mask or wear a medical grade mask.  Your government will embark upon the distribution of free medical grade masks at vaccination sites starting this week in New Providence.

“We know from the science that persons who have been vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.  Vaccines are safe and effective against the severe effects of the virus.”

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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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