By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands opened the first Grand Bahama Family Medicine Conference held at the Pelican Bay Resort on Thursday for physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
The conference was spearheaded by the Grand Bahama Health Services, in partnership with the Family Medicine Department of Tuft University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts.
While persons in Grand Bahama are attending the conference in Freeport, Dr Sands said that those in New Providence, San Salvador, Exuma, the Berry Islands, and Bimini had access to conference lectures through live video conferencing.
“I am advised that the inspiration for the conference was born out of a discussion with a Bahamian physician living and working abroad exploring the challenges encountered by physicians on Grand Bahama in accessing continuing education in family medicine principles,” the minister said.
Dr Wayne Altman, chair of the Family Medicine Department at Tufts, and his team were commended for partnering with the GBHS in putting on the conference.
Minister Sands noted that the continuing medical education for Family Medicine and Primary Care professionals is vital for the optimal functioning of the health system.
He said these frontline health care professionals are the first point of contact and ensure patients get the right care.
Dr Sands stressed that evidence-based learning, skill building and training pertinent to achieving and maintaining quality patient care must be continuous for the primary care team to deliver and achieve great value in the delivery of healthcare.
According to Minister Sands, participants include physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who will be exposed to a dynamic learning environment which consisted of Didactic lectures, interactive sessions, and hands-on workshops.
He noted that participants would receive continuing medical education credits upon successful completion.
“It is critical to note that the entire learning experience will have an incredible impact on our services delivered by the community health arm of the Public Health System,” Dr Sands said.
The Minister of Health said in the last five years there has been a move to recruit more family medicine trained physicians and other primary care specialists to Grand Bahama. He said their vigorous recruitment drive has improved the quality of care in Grand Bahama.
Dr Sands reported that Family Medicine has grown in the Bahamas from 1985. He noted that over the years the department has evolved from one where 90 percent of its physicians were general practitioners, many of whom hadn’t pursued post-graduate specialties.
He stated that now 98 percent of its physicians are family medicine, internal medicine, gynaecology, and other medical specialists – mainly due to the implementation of the family medicine training programme in 2002.
“I am advised that bringing training to the health professionals involved in primary care here in Grand Bahama has included an intensive training initiative in diabetic foot care, in the absence of a permanent podiatrist in GBHS community health services, and participation in the Pan American Health Organisation Mental Health and Family Care training programme,” Dr Sands said.
The minister indicated that the restructuring of Primary Care Services to enhance training and adopt a holistic approach had been accelerated by the rotation of 5th year University of the West Indies medical students and fourth year Family Medicine programme residents through the Family Medicine Programme in Grand Bahama.
He believes that the knowledge gained from the conference will hone the skills of the practising primary health care professionals.