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Medical Treatment Abroad in trouble again with Omicron surge

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 28, 2022 – Up to January 20, five people needed medical evacuation and hospital treatment outside of the Turks and Caicos Islands; one person has died overseas.

The National Health Insurance Treatment Abroad Program (TAP) is again having difficulty finding beds for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients in the Turks and Caicos who need to be airlifted for health care.

Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health & Human Services announced in a press conference recently.

“I would like to note at this juncture that our treatment abroad program is once again experiencing challenges with finding ICU beds inside our network of overseas hospitals because those countries are also experiencing their own waves of the omicron virus.”

At least five people had to be airlifted in the last couple of weeks one of whom was a tourist and another of whom died while being treated in the Dominican Republic.

That patient would unfortunately be subject to DR laws, which say COVID patients who die while in the Dominican Republic, must be cremated.

 

Bahamas News

Introducing The Bahamas Cannabis Authority; Marijuana Bill tabled by Darville

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, May 20, 2024 – A medical marijuana industry is set for establishment in The Bahamas, following the tabling of the Cannabis Bill, 2024, in the House of Assembly, by Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Dr Michael Darville, May 15.

The Minister said objective of legislation is to set up a framework to establish The Bahamas Cannabis Authority, and to regulate the of importation, exportation, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, producing, sale, possession, distribution, and use of cannabis.

He told the Assembly that the law represents a thoughtful and balanced approach and was driven by a duty to act as he referenced the number of Bahamians who are battling cancer and in need of alternative treatments for pain management and other related issues.

“The legislative package, the Cannabis Bill, 2024 is designed to introduce a controlled system of cannabis use in medical treatments. The bill establishes the Bahamas Cannabis Authority.  A regulatory body overseeing all aspects of cannabis management and cultivation and distribution.  The authority’s mandate is to ensure that cannabis production and use are safe, controlled and effectively integrated into our health care system,” Minister Darville said.

Adding that the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that he also tabled, reclassifies cannabis by removing it from the dangerous drug list, now recognises its potential for medical use, he said the change aligns “our nations laws” with evolving global perspectives on cannabis.

The new law makes provisions for the licensing of cannabis handlers across various aspects of The Bahamas, and Dr. Darville said the licensing is structured to prioritise Bahamian ownership, with provisions ensuring that significant control remains in the hands of Bahamian nationals, fostering local entrepreneurship and economic benefits “for Bahamians across the country.

“We are here to make a difference, to enact change, remove years of stigma and transform lives by offering alternative treatments by way of medical cannabis.  The legislation before us offers a careful, considerate approach ensuring that we prioritize the wellbeing and safety of our citizens. Let us move with compassion,” he said.

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Health

National Health Sector Strategic Plan Launched 

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2024 – The Turks and Caicos is attempting to optimize the tens of millions it spends on healthcare each year with a new National Health Sector Strategic Plan to guide how money is allocated and increase efficiency in healthcare and increase health equity.

Shaun Malcolm, Minister of Health presented the theme ‘Building a Strong Resilient and Sustainable Healthcare System for Future Generations Brick by Brick’.

Desiree Lewis, Permanent Secretary of Health explained that the document “identifies and prioritizes key health issues and challenges facing the population allowing resources to be allocated efficiently to address those priorities.”

In doing so the plan is also supposed to promote collaboration between the various stakeholders in the Health industry including policy makers, legislators, doctors and other healthcare professionals on the ground; giving them an outlined set of objectives to work on in their various spheres, for a specific collective outcome.

”This will facilitate a more unified approach to addressing health challenges and leveraging resources effectively,” Lewis explains.

Modeled to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 3 which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, the plan was developed during COVID-19 and presented by Lynrod Brooks, Director of Health Policy and Planning in the Ministry of Health and Human Services.

The plan maintains that in order to attain a healthier and empowered people there are three key actions necessary: protecting health gain, already achieved in the country; addressing past deficiencies; and identifying and implementing interventions to address new health challenges.

In order to achieve the goals set out, in addition to the three key actions there are six Strategic Directions that health stakeholders will follow

  • SD1 Strengthen Leadership, Governance and Administration: ‘Ensuring entities transform resources into results,’
  • SD2 Protect and Improve Universal Health Coverage (UHC): ‘Provide people of all ages and all health needs with health services.’
  • SD3 Address Health Security: ‘Identify outbreaks and other health threats.’
  • SD4 Promote Healthy Populations: ‘Support the creation of a conducive environment to support well-being, healthy living,’
  • SD5 Invest in Health: ‘Ensure appropriate resources are available and efficiently used.’
  • SD6 Improve Data for Impact: Increase the availability, quality and use of timely and accurate health information

Some of the priority areas under the health plan that these six Strategic Directions seek to address include, pandemic prevention; increased mental and behavioral healthcare; Strengthened national capacity against health emergencies and disasters; universal access to comprehensive, quality health services; reduced risk of non-communicable diseases; and Increased equitable access to essential medicines and vaccines.

The 3 year document will also make provisions for monitoring and evaluation so policy makers can assess if the plan is actually working. It’s billed to enhance accountability with a quarterly report to be presented for the 3-year period.

Attending the event were a myriad of professionals and policy makers indicative of the many areas of the healthcare industry which the plan will affect; attendees included: Dr Rufus Ewing, Former Premier and Minister of Health; Dr. Eldonna Boisson, the Pan American Health Organization representative for the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas; Dr Ellis Webster, Premier of Anguilla; Washington Misick, TCI Premier; Dileeni Daniel Selvaratnam, TCI Governor and others.

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Health

Cause for Alarm; 7% Diabetic, 19% Hypertensive in TCI

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Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2024 – Health numbers in the Turks and Caicos are showing a concerning increase in lifestyle diseases according to recent statistics shared by Dr. Camelia Clarke, Director of Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit, who detailed the concerns recorded by the Ministry of Health.

”In 2021– we found that 19 percent of the population was hypertensive and a significant chunk was the 55 and up age group, we are an aging population. We are victims of our success. We’ve done well in terms of communicable diseases and we are living longer, but we are getting sicker as we become older,” the director explained at the launch of the National Healthcare Sector Strategic Plan on May 14.

Globally NCDs are separated into five categories, Mental Health, Cardiovascular Diseases, Chronic Respiratory Diseases, Cancers, and Diabetes and when they occur its bad for everyone.

“There’s a heavy, economic burden, not just on individuals, but families, communities and health systems in general. While NCDs present in different ways there are five common underlying risk factors; physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, immoderate use of alcohol, tobacco use and poor air quality,” Clarke revealed.

These five factors and the resulting five categories of diseases account for over 70 percent of deaths worldwide, the Director explained, citing that 15 million of the 41 million people who die each year, are part of the working age group which she described as ‘a significant economic knock’.

The breakdown of the Turks and Caicos’ illnesses in 2021 via phone survey, found that of the 19 percent of hypertensive residents locally, 41 percent were 55 and over, 19 percent were 35 to 54 and 9 percent were between 18 and 34 years old. Additionally 7 percent of the overall population was found to be diabetic.

Between 2015 to 2019, the number one cause of death was drowning owing to freak accidents where migrant boats capsized, but next to that was NCDs which were responsible for about half of all the deaths recorded during the period with cardiovascular diseases being particularly deadly.

Instances of Breast Cancer in the Turks and Caicos were also described as ‘significantly high’ along with a notable increase in overall cancer diagnoses locally. Between 2010 and 2013 diagnoses were more than six times higher according to the TCI Hospital.

In addition to that came a significant increase in deaths, and in the Turks and Caicos between 2021 and 2023 over $2 million was spent treating cancers, and over $300,000 on cardiovascular diseases just for overseas treatment.

Children in the Turks and Caicos are at risk as well, Clarke cited a 2015 study that showed primary school age children were experiencing risks associated with diet and physical activity.

”We also found that, unacceptably, out of every 10 children, four of them were considered overweight or obese— compounding that we found that they were taking less fruits and vegetables than we wanted them to and not exercising as much as we want. The future is looking kind of bleak,” Clarke admitted.

To stave off that future the National Healthcare Sector Strategic Plan has goals such as increased health promotion, removal of barriers to early detection of NCDs, decreased mortality, and more data.

Clarke maintained that by setting ambitious goals like those included in the National Healthcare Sector Strategic Plan the country could slowly but surely decrease the concerning numbers.

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