AS the nation continues to struggle through the power problems affecting New Providence, there continue to be moments that make you realise how little prepared the government was for this.
It’s almost time for children to go back to school. It’s been one thing sweating through a long hot summer, it’s another again for children to be going to school with no idea of whether the power will stay on when they get there.
So what’s the government’s solution to this situation?
“We are just going to have to manage it.”
Those were the words of Education Minister Jeff Lloyd yesterday. If that doesn’t sound comforting, then his next words will send a chill down the spine of parents that isn’t being provided by any air conditioning.
He was asked if there are any plans in place for public schools in the face of the ongoing load shedding, and his response was “not really”.
Not really? How safe can parents feel about leaving their children at school knowing that the ministry doesn’t have a plan?
Mr Lloyd admits if the power is off, then students can’t be inside – especially in those schools without adequate lighting from windows – and talked vaguely of using gyms and even the stadium, but what’s the plan to get them there? Are there buses for transport? Are parents going to be aware if their children are being taken off the school grounds? Will they have given permission?
If there aren’t facilities available, will parents have to turn around and come and pick their children up again? Goodness knows what disruption to parents’ working days that will bring.
And will facilities be fit for use by schoolchildren? Will they be safe? Perhaps the hurricane shelters might come into use in some cases – do they have generators for power and are they ready for use when schools begin?
For weeks now, we have seen BPL struggle to provide enough energy for the island – and that’s while the schools are closed for summer. We have heard the company talk of the new plant coming online in December – but what happens until then?
The ministry has seen this disruption continuing all summer – so why does it feel their best plan is to cross their fingers and hope?
We suspect if parents were asked if they felt confident in leaving their children at school with power likely to blink off at any moment, they would use the same two words as Mr Lloyd: Not really.
When term starts, we would urge the ministry to make sure there is a plan. By day one.
A big project - and a big decision
One area where there is a plan – several plans, it seems – is in the Ministry of Health, which is considering a new multi-million dollar hospital transformation.
No commitment has yet been made, says Health Minister Dr Duane Sands, but that doesn’t mean plans aren’t being discussed.
A proposal from Medistar would see them front the cost of the project but leave the government with a massive rental bill afterwards. How would the government pay that bill? Well, Dr Sands believes it would encourage Bahamians to stay here for treatment rather than going to spend more than $400m a year on medical treatment in Florida.
That latter part is a worthy goal – it would keep money in our economy, and it would mean facilities here for those not in a position to travel for treatment. All that travel adds substantial extra costs, and that can be a barrier to those who need the treatment.
The government will face some big decisions as they continue to consider the future of healthcare here in The Bahamas – we hope they weigh them carefully, do their due diligence thoroughly on potential partners, and make the right choice for all Bahamians.