By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
BEFORE throwing his cards into the political deck, Bahamians automatically associated Dr Micheal Perry Gomez with the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Bahamas.
Having emerged from the May 7 general election as a political powerhouse, winning the North Andros and the Berry Islands constituency for the Progressive Liberal Party, Dr Gomez has been given the mandate of overseeing the overall state of health care in the Bahamas.
Dr Gomez was sworn in as the Minister of Health last Friday. He will now oversee the PLP's pledges to revamp and improve the quality of health care.
In the PLP's Charter for Governance the government promised to further develop and identify strategic clinics, which can provide diagnostics, day surgeries and other out patient services closer to where people live and work. They also promised to equip the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Rand Memorial Hospital with diagnostic and therapeutic instrumentation.
The government's plans also include the construction of new hospitals on several Family Islands as well as reforming the health care infrastructure by streamlining and computerising records and inventory.
"Being in charge of the health care sector in the Bahamas is not an easy task and is a position that comes with a huge responsibilities. It is my hope that Dr Gomez does all that he can to ensure that the quality of health care in the Bahamas is improved," said a health care practitioner, who wished to remain anonymous.
Dr Gomez' journey started in 1971 when he earned a medical degree from the University of the West Indies. Immediately after he went to Wayne State University where he specialised in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases.
Under his direction the National HIV Programme of the Bahamas had a major impact on decreasing the spread of the disease. HIV transmission rates in the Bahamas declined by more than 30 percent, under his leadership and HIV transmission from mother-to-child also decreased dramatically.
72 percent of all persons with advanced HIV receive requisite treatment, and all persons with HIV and TB co-infection receive full treatment for both conditions.
"I have had the opportunity to work along with Dr Gomez during the College of the Bahamas' HIV testing and blood drive last year. My sociology class worked with the HIV/AIDS Foundation to put on the event and Dr Gomez was there. After that encounter I consider him to be someone who seriously cares about the health of people. He was very professional, he did not make any of the students getting tested feel embarrassed or uncomfortable," said Ashley Munroe, a College of the Bahamas student.
Dr Gomez also founded the AIDS Clinical Services Programme at the Princess Margaret Hospital, and assisted other Caribbean nations in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In addition to his new post as the Minister of Health, Dr Gomez is the standing chair of the executive council of the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Regional Training Initiative. He is also the co-chair of the regional initiative for the Elimination of Vertical Transmission of HIV and Syphilis and is a member of the Executive Board of Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP).
"I have met Dr Gomez on several occasions. There were times when I had to carry patients to see him. Every patient he treated with care. He is a veteran doctor and he takes his time out with his patients. Based on his record with the hospital people know and trust him. The decision to make him Minister of Health was a good one because it is easier to vote in someone who is well known in their profession," said former psychiatric nurse Willamae Hanna.