PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts has requested the press to question Health Minister Dr Duane Sands, a noted cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon, about the dual role he plays at the Cabinet table. Dr Sands is a newly elected Cabinet minister who has volunteered to continue to perform urgent and difficult surgeries on a voluntary basis should the need arise. For this generous gesture he will not be paid.
However, according to PLP Roberts this act of human compassion is a conflict of interest, and should not be allowed. Yes, in the normal course of business, it would be a conflict of interest and under parliamentary rules would not be allowed. But thanks to the ruinous legacy inherited from the PLP, the new government finds itself in a position in which to retain Dr Sands’ much needed medical skills has become a necessity. As a result the Cabinet has agreed to accept his generous offer of free service when needed.
There are many Bahamians who believe that Dr Sands’ skills are needed more by his patients than as an MP in the House of Assembly. But the situation in which he has found himself is such that no matter how successful he is as a surgeon, what is to happen to his patients after a successful operation if there are not enough hospital beds to accommodate them or nurses to take care of them?
And this is where Dr Sands will play an important role at the Cabinet table to inform and try to find ways in which to rebuild a hospital, which should, in its present state, be condemned.
Our question then is, not to Dr Sands, but to Bradley Roberts and his PLP party. PLP medical doctors have sat in the House of Assembly, but what have they done to raise the standards of the Princess Margaret, Rand Memorial and other medical centres on their watch?
We know of one disaster for which the PLP were the architects when on coming to power in 2012 they delayed the almost completed Critical Care Centre to turn the “step down” clinic into plush offices for themselves, thus eliminating the extra patients’ beds — the main purpose for the construction of the new building.
Yes, Mr Robert there are many questions that you and your party have to answer.
It is now up to Dr Sands and the FNM government to try to rescue our medical services from near collapse and so, every Bahamian has to understand the situation — take it out of the clutches of politicians — and try to bring the country’s medical services up to an acceptable standard.
According to a recent report “collapsing infrastructure, broken equipment, inadequate provision of staff, particularly nurses, doctors and allied health personnel, have led to a state in which access to healthcare services and patient dignity, particularly in Accident and Emergency and the Maternity Ward are compromised on a daily basis.”
There is a critical need of medical staff. It is estimated that about 440 nurses are needed - 58 of them between the Accident and Emergency and the Intensive Care Unit.
It has been pointed out that areas of concern are the training of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, radiographers and laboratory technologists and nurses at both undergraduate and post graduate levels.
Although there are graduate nurses, there are not enough to meet the needs of the public service. Another problem is competition from the US where salaries and benefits are far higher than can be offered in the Bahamas. As a result “we are experiencing an exodus of many of our highly trained nurses,” who can measure up to the best of them in the US.
For example, former governor general Sir Arthur Foulkes’ daughter, Dr Dominque Foulkes, is now the medical director and chairman of Paediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Shaw Family Paediatric Emergency Centre in Bethesda, Maryland.
Another complaint is an inadequate budget for equipment at PMH. Apparently it has not had a budget for many years.
It was remarked that this “unfortunate situation is and will continue to have significant implications on the delivery of care.”
At present two rooms in the radiology department have been out of service for some time because of the need to replace equipment that can no longer be repaired.
And, of course, for many years because of lack of funds, the Public Hospital Authority has not been able to afford the cost of a preventative maintenance contract.
Although funds have been approved under the PLP administration for various projects, the projects have not even been started because the funds were never provided for the projects. In order to complete the various approve capital projects $43,181,178 must be provided. And another $27,050,616.63 for the health system strengthening projects.
And yet the PLP government wasted almost $600 million to create a National Health scheme to make Bahamians believe that they were getting improved health care free, when our basic health care has been crumbling beneath us.
No, Mr Bradley Roberts, it is you and your party who have to answer our questions. Dr Sands is donating his time to help rebuild the collapsed health care system that the FNM government has inherited.
Maybe it is time for Mr Robert to also make a contribution to the cause — if not he can direct his questions to his own colleagues who created much of the problems through foolish spending.