WE were very interested in a statement by Dr Marcus Cooper during the recent consultants pay dispute at the Princess Margaret Hospital, in which he explained that it was because of the personal and professional sacrifices of these same doctors to improve the quality of services in our public system that The Bahamas “is able to boast the best public healthcare facility in the region”. Dr Cooper is president of the Medical Association of The Bahamas.
Last year, shortly after the last election, we were granted a tour of the hospital by newly appointed Health Minister Dr Duane Sands, to see for ourselves the collapsed state of the centre of our health services. One would have to see the problem with their own eyes to be convinced of the “morally repugnant” state of the PMH, inherited by the FNM government — patients on guerneys lining the corridors, an outdated, crammed A&E department lacking beds, critical equipment, supplies and staff; a non-existent Children’s Ward (closed) and the PMH laundry, inoperable had it not been for the laundry staff taking the initiative for more than two years to pile the dirty, infected sheets, hospital linens and scrubs into their cars or trucks to use the facilities at Sandilands. Other parts of the hospital were in a state of collapse with the roof off; barely functioning radiology department and the Cory Newbold Ward looking like a disaster zone. There were signs that workmen had started to tear it apart for reconstruction, but had been called off the job midstream. We were led to believe that funds set aside for this ward were taken for Family Island clinics to boost the 2017 election. And so it continued – with every step an even bleaker scene confronted us.
Despite now retired Public Hospital Authority Herbert Brown’s warning, he recorded in his pre-retirement letter of the failure of repairs and their costs, and the PLP administration’s increase of salaries, allowances, and overtime from $133 million in 2012 to $181 million in 2017 (election year). We understand that today 80 percent of the PHA’s budget is earmarked for salaries. And so when the FNM were handed the keys, the new government also received Mr Brown’s report regarding the failure to repair the extensive damage suffered by the PMH roof, male surgical ward (closed), Cory Newbold Ward (closed), old ICU ward (closed), Children’s Ward South (closed); PMH laundry (inoperable); an outdated, crammed, A&E Department lacking critical equipment, supplies and equipment and staff during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which was impacting upon the delivery of healthcare and patient outcomes.” However, there was no mention that the PMH has been unable to send patient bills nor seek reimbursement for applicable patients since 2012 – a brilliant way to run a business, all going out, nothing coming in.
Up until a few days ago doctors called to the Accident & Emergency department were still examining patients by the light from their cell phones. Apparently there are either none or not enough lights in this department for a doctor to carry out an examination – and so cell phones have been called into service. We wonder when money or donations will be found to supply light for A&E.
That, dear reader, is the state of our main hospital, which, according to the President of Bahamas Medical Association “boasts the best public health care facility in the region”.
Ever since this statement we have been searching for anything — other than the PMH’s own self-serving and very attractive propaganda — that would support Dr Cooper’s statement. We can find nothing. Not even on the “Ranking Web Hospitals.” Doctors Hospital was mentioned fairly far down in this ranking, but the poor PMH did not even get a mention.
We understand that the local Physicians Alliance is in charge of the hospital’s Private Ward, but now that an active FNM-appointed Hospitals Authority board has been faced with the inherited disaster, funds are being solicited from generous benefactors to bring the Public Ward up to international standards. Much is yet to be done, but what has already been accomplished through the generosity of a few private donors is, in our opinion, now showing up the Physicians Alliance. For example, the Corey Newbold Ward – a public, not private, ward – would today do any first class hospital proud. Women now have a labour ward, and there is a new digital X-Ray scanner, the airconditioning unit, which had broken down for lack of service, is now in full operation.
When we saw the hopeless situation — before private donors came to the rescue— the only solution that we could suggest — and would still recommend – is for government to enter into an agreement to partner with one of the world’s leading hospitals— John’s Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, or Mayo Clinic, etc — to establish an international hospital in The Bahamas.
Freeport, which is in desperate need of a switch of activity to be turned on, could be the site. It could be the Health Centre for the Caribbean and instead of Bahamians flying to Miami for medical care, which is now on the increase, they could fly to Freeport. This would also expand our local airline industry.
Bahamians would have a tourist medical centre for which there was much talk some time ago. This way we could have both —a first class hospital for all Bahamians, and a deluxe centre that tourists would patronise because we would then in fact be the “best public healthcare facility in the region”.