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Ragged Islanders Fear Being Pushed Aside After Dorian

Conditions on Ragged Island in 2017 after Hurricane Irma.

Conditions on Ragged Island in 2017 after Hurricane Irma.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

RAGGED Island residents were feeling neglected even before Hurricane Dorian ravaged Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Now with attention fixed on restoring the country’s second and third largest island economies, residents of Ragged Island feel despair, fearing their wait for basic services like healthcare and public education will be pushed aside indefinitely.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) designated their island “uninhabitable” after Hurricane Irma in 2017 and has not lifted that tag since.

The consequences of this can be severe for the 60 or so residents living there, with one family finding this year that when the health of their patriarch deteriorated, emergency medical airlift wasn’t available because of the absence of a doctor on the island.

Perseus Wilson had a membership in a company that provides emergency medical transportation services throughout the Bahamas.

When he sought help in August, the company declined to airlift him. According to documents seen by The Tribune, it said he was not in the care of a medical professional and a doctor neither recommended his transport or said he was stable for flight, all requirements for mobilisation.

“He was angry to find out they wouldn’t come to get him after he paid his money to be a member,” his wife, Jill Wilson, recalled on Wednesday. “Perseus also spoke with doctors in Exuma and they said for them to come he has to be seen by a doctor who must say he’s at a stage where they have to pick him up. But how can a doctor say that when no doctor is on the island?”

Mr Wilson was eventually transported by private charter to Exuma and then to Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau. He died in August at 66.

He had stage three chronic kidney disease and, doctors discovered, cancer. His family does not argue that he would be alive today even if he had received medical attention sooner. However, the absence of a clinic and medical professionals on their island has dangerously complicated the equation for anyone who needs emergency help, they stressed.

“There has to be at least a nurse on the island and that may have made a difference in his case,” Mrs Wilson said. “I have children down there now and I’m going back there so of course I’m worried this could happen again.”

Many Ragged Island residents believe the government wants them to abandon the island and leave it truly uninhabited. This, they surmise, would lessen the burden on the public treasury in an era when climate change has the country rethinking its approach to hurricane preparedness.

Two reasons Rochelle Maycock, 33, isn’t fleeing Ragged Island is her dislike for the country’s cities and the vibrancy of her island’s fishing industry, which, she said, brings her husband nearly $80,000 a year.

“You know how much seafood Ragged Island does produce?” she asked on Wednesday. “Right now we have, say, 8,000 pounds of crawfish on the island or more. Most of the people already rebuilt their houses after the storm. All we need is for the government to step up and come with essential services.”

Erica Wallace, 38, said her two children were attending school in Exuma last year, but are now back on Ragged Island, getting education through non-traditional means.

“We just got tired of the separation so they’re here now being homeschooled until the government decides to put a school here,” she said, adding her children are enrolled with Southside Academy, which offers online homeschooling services. “We want to be together as a family so this is what we have to deal with now. We want the physical school though so the children could mix with other children.”

During his national address in May, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced an $8 million investment in Ragged Island’s redevelopment that would involve the construction of a new $2 million school and teachers’ duplex, a $2.5 million clinic, a $2.5 million administrator’s office, a post office and courtroom and a new $1 million police station and accommodations.

Four months later, residents on the island say no work has started on any of this.

“My engineers and architects are working on this project and all of the other capital projects that we are looking to construct throughout the country,” Works Minister Desmond Bannister said Wednesday when asked about the matter.

He said the issue isn’t a simple one. “After Dorian they have to drop whatever they are doing to assess schools, government buildings, seawalls and hundreds of residential buildings in Grand Bahama and Abaco,” he said. 

On Facebook, the complaint of one Ragged Island descendent was shared dozens of times yesterday.

Janae Wallace wrote: “This place is where I’ve learned everything I know, this place made me who I am today. Hurricane Dorian tore through Grand Bahama and Abaco and they have been given an overwhelming response from all over the world. Not to be selfish, but I have to ask the question, have y’all forgotten about Ragged Island? Is Ragged Island considered to be a part of the Bahamas?”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Ragged Islanders have more to worry about than they think. House Speaker Moultrie has extended an official invitation from the Minnis-led FNM government to an official delegation of the brutal X-led communist regime for Red China to develop and make themselves at home in the Southern Bahamas.

House Speaker Moultrie has since said the invitation he extended to the official delegation from Red China was a personal one and not an official invitation of the Minnis-led FNM government. But the invitation was made in an official setting and has not been retracted by Minnis himself. One can only wonder what official papers have been signed on behalf of the Minnis-led FNM government.

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sealice 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Anyone especially any Bahamian who's had to have already been slapped in the face multiple times by our useless gubmint should know better then to keep hoping years after the storm has past that there is anything headed their way. Unfortunately in a place like Ragged there isn't a lot of big business and money to drive the economy (read foreign investment) so our Government chooses to neglect the Bahamina people here. NOW this is any government of the Bahamas because both parties have done so to multiple out islands in the Bahamas and in many cases more then once to the same island.

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The_Oracle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Dunno what happened to the Carbon War room/100 island challenge that were looking at ragged island infrastructure but odds are it got stuck in some committee staffed by Political appointees Min of works, BEC/BPL/ etc. Sad. was a dead project before it started.

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago

exactly. This government is incapable of doing anything holistically and is constantly looking for the easiest PR win.

In 2017 it was "lock them up". In 2018 it was "we only care about young people under 35 who dont have jobs". This was a national policy stated publicly by the PM. Almost incomprehensible. A national policy of age discrimination.

In 2019 it's "we only concerned about people from abaco and Grand Bahama affected by the storm".

The tens of thousands of others who fall out of the "in" group are forgotten. This govt, who will clearly still be unprepared on May 20 2021, fails to realize that pre Dorian we were in trouble. Even if they restore every Dorian victim 100% we will still be at zero. But more likely worse off through 5 years of their neglect.

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