By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
IT will cost hundreds of millions to transform the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) into a modern, state-of-the-art, regional “Centre of Excellence”.
And to achieve such a mammoth task the new Public Hospital Authority Board has been assessing the critical needs of its crumbling health infrastructure. This is a huge challenge which involves:
• fast-tracking the refurbishment of the PMH A&E Department;
• reallocating funds - which had been diverted by the PLP – back into completing critical repairs to hurricane damaged wards and PMH roof;
• restoring vendor relationships and paying off years of accounts receivables to ensure the supply of medicines and supplies;
• ordering new radiology equipment;
• getting ambulances repaired and back on the road;
• replacing washing machines and ordering sanitisation machines for the laundry;
• instilling a culture of accountability and teamwork focused on patient care.
At the same time, the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) is drawing up a masterplan for the future, considering redevelopment proposals, discussing partnerships with global international institutions and the statutes which will be needed to satisfy Health Minister Dr Duane Sands’ mandate - for the PHA to transform our nation’s delivery of healthcare.
“The state of the PMH, EMS Services and other healthcare facilities is unconscionable,” stated Robert Dupuch Carron, deputy chairman of the Public Hospital Authority (PHA).
“Truth be told, I find it difficult to restrain from responding to those whose ethos, sense of entitlement, endless grandstanding and remarkable ‘memory loss’ provide them with a platform to stand up and criticise our minister, chairman, board, managing director or PHA team for a lack of action. I think we have come a very long way in a short period of time,” he added.
“It’s beyond the realm of ridiculous that the former administration spent $234m in the run-up to the 2017 election and between $250,000-$500,000 per month for foreign NHI consultants, yet, former managing director Herbert Brown’s pleas for funds to repair the extensive damage caused to the PMH roof and public wards by Hurricane Matthew went unanswered.
“Let’s not forget - as Minister Sands shared in Parliament - the former administration issued monthly cleaning services for the Exuma mini hospital (worth) $424,638.84 and monthly cleaning contract for the Abaco clinic (which wasn’t open); landscape contracts worth over $26,000 a month, while the PHA was constantly running out of medicines/surgical supplies or other essential equipment.
“I’ve seen reports of rodents eating through the circuit boards of new ultrasound equipment in PMH; ambulances laid up for months for want of parts; printers not working in the A&E for months so registration wristbands were being written out by hand; blood tests being delayed as we’d run out of testing supplies; dialysis machines needing repairs so we cannot provide the level of care necessary for the number of patients; and, the promised $5m to recruit nurses and other health professionals to staff the Critical Care Block failing to materialise.
“We have boarders living in the Accident & Emergency department who, for some reason, social services won’t take. They’ve been there for months. We have children who have been dropped off at the wards. We run an $8m deficit in medicine. We run millions of dollars deficit in supplies and 87 percent of our budget is taken up by salaries, overtime, hazard pay and other benefits.
“And, according to Dr Sands, the much-needed 20 beds in the intended ‘stepdown’ ward of the Critical Care Block was converted by the PLP into a ‘plush den and magnificent board room for the current PMH administrator and executive staff,” Mr Carron said.
“On my first day, I tried to casually go around, but got busted in the laundry,” he said laughing.
“After a couple of minutes of shock and disbelief that my PHA badge was real – apparently they’d never seen a deputy chairman in the flesh - I was given a tour.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes: there were broken washing machines, sanitisation machines, dryers, rusted-out air compressors, exposed wiring and folding machine cluttered around the place; some that had been out of service for years.Yet through this adversity, the team refused to quit. They informed me they used to take the soiled sheets, linens, towels, scrubs and surgical coverings in their cars each day over to Sandilands - or washed them by hand – each day.
“Over the course of more than 25 years in the media business, I’ve experienced a state-sponsored campaign of victimisation, intimidation and discrimination against our family; not to mention my fair share of death threats, bomb threats, work permit refusals and everything in between defending ‘Freedom of the Press’, but nothing in the world could prepare me for the sense of helplessness, despair and moral outrage you feel when you look in the eyes of the young, old, babies, grandparents, brothers, sisters cousins, friends, loved ones or tourists and see the pain, worry, suffering, loss of dignity, outdated equipment, lack of compassion and dilapidated conditions which they experience.
“Yet, despite such a toxic environment, I’ve met truly remarkable individuals – directors, doctors, nurses, porters, customer service agents, security guards, EMS team; lab techs, A&E department, Oncology clinic; and, last but by no means least, my friends in the laundry.
“Why did I offer to serve? In honour of the legacy of my amazing two-yeer-old son Aidan and all those whose lives I know have been cut short before they have had a chance to even begin,”
“Our chairman asked if I would chair the strategic planning, infrastructure, redevelopment and public relations sub-committee of the board in order to provide the best options for the board to consider,” Mr Carron said.
“I devote as much of my time as possible in assisting in the development of the team, empowering them to believe in themselves as they are an essential part of the vision to transform healthcare in our nation.
“Yes, we’ve been working on a unified vision, masterplan, project timelines, looking at new structures; setting up of a PHA Foundation– whose endowment will be managed and/or invested by an international financial entity - providing donors, benefactors, corporate entities and individuals from all walks of life with US/UK tax benefit – and vaccination legislation regarding the transportation, storage, handling, administration and use of CDC-approved variants. Not versions discontinued in the USA, UK, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, Korea, Russian, Canada years ago.
“If Tiger Woods says that ten percent of the world’s billionaires live in The Bahamas, then our chairman, the board and PHA team have got lots of meetings to arrange once we have a vision, masterplan, architectural design, global strategic partners – then it’s time for the serious work,” Mr Carron said.
“We have two proposals in now, we expect one more to come in and will forward them to our chairman, board of directors and Minister Sands. While some proposals envision a complete transformation of PMH; the other envisions a private partnership, it really depends on how you judge the benefits of the various options.”
To then maintain the hospital and help fund the public healthcare system, officials are going to have to be looking for other potential solutions. The PHA chairman, Julian Rolle, managing director of BAF Financial, shared the Cayman Islands’ healthcare system as a possible alternative.
“It’s so deceptively simple, it’s unbelievable,” Mr Carron said.
“The Cayman model says everybody who is employed has to have private health insurance and there are different levels of insurance but on top of that there is a $20 indigent fee which would help those who can’t afford health insurance. That’s ten bucks from a company and ten bucks from the employee; that’s two beers per month, not even 50 cents a day. Nobody’s going to object to that.
“If you think that approximately160,000 people are employed here and everybody’s paying in, that’s almost $38m a year; that’s what PMH needs to run its operations. So get an endowment to build the facilities, you have someone build the facilities and then you run the tax.”
“I’d just like to share that I appreciate our people’s desire to transform our nation’s healthcare system. While Rome wasn’t built in a day, I want everyone to know that our chairman, board, new managing director Catherine Weech, deputy managing director and many others in the PHA team are hard at work each and every day to make this vision a reality.”
The members of the PHA board are: Julian Rolle, chairman; Robert Dupuch-Carron, deputy chairman; Catherine Weech, acting managing director; Dr Pearl McMillian, chief medical officer (acting); Hannah Gray, consultant; Dr Wesley Francis, director; Nicole Martin, director; Dr Ebbie Jackson, director; Tonya Adderley, director; Mr Nicolas Rees, director; George Godet, director; Ejnar Cornish, director; Leslie Isaacs, secretary to the board; Janet Hall, secretary to the board.