By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AFTER weeks of being silent concerning the resignation of former health minister Dr Duane Sands, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on Thursday refused to explain his decision for accepting Dr Sands’ resignation, only saying he wished the Elizabeth MP “well” in his future endeavours.
Addressing the controversial topic for the first time during a press conference on Thursday , Dr Minnis said: “Dr Duane Sands submitted his resignation publicly of which you would be very much aware of.”
“This matter has been discussed and debated extensively in the public domain and at this time, we are more concerned with dealing with the COVID pandemic (and) getting the economy running again and ensuring that people get their jobs back and ensuring that people have food on their tables, and we (want to) increase our employment status that we see today.
“And I do wish him well in his private sector role.”
His comments come after more than a month of continued silence concerning the issue, which made headlines across the country.
The Elizabeth MP resigned in early May after accepting responsibility for his actions in allowing six American permanent residents entry in the country with COVID-19 testing supplies without being tested for the virus.
The group were instead tested for the infectious disease the next day.
Former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe connected Dr Sands with donors who supplied 2,500 test swabs that cost $11,250, prompting an effort by the health minister to get the swabs here.
Dr Sands got approval from Mr D’Aguilar for an aircraft to deliver the supplies to the country. He then contacted Immigration Director Clarence Russell who arranged his requests for the passengers.
Mr D’Aguilar told Dr Sands officials had been insisting that people coming to the country provide a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry. The Freetown MP deferred to the health minister to make the call and Dr Sands allowed the passengers entry without testing them.
In recent weeks, questions have been raised why Dr Sands was allowed to resign while other officials who were also involved in the episode were not being held accountable for their actions.
Pressed about the issue on Thursday, Dr Minnis only said he was more concerned with dealing with the country’s states of affairs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Minnis also did not elaborate on what he meant when he said last month that protocol was breached during the episode.
Saying the matter is now “finished”, Dr Minnis firmly said: “We are moving on, trying to get our economy running and trying to deal with this pandemic and get people out functioning and working and have food for their family and selves.
“That is our priority today.”
Dr Sands is the second Cabinet minister to resign this term, after former Immigration Minister Brent Symonette resigned last year.
He is now serving as a consultant surgeon for the Public Hospitals Authority.
Noting the profession as one he has prepared for his entire life, Dr Sands told The Tribune last month he was happy to return to the medical field to serve the Bahamian people.
“It’s the profession that I have prepared (for) all my life, all of my professional life to execute and I have always provided services not just in the private sector but also to public patients and that is going to continue.
“I think it’s very, very important that any skill that I have is made available just not to people with the ability to pay but public patients as well so that’s what I’m going to be doing.
"I will continue to work on the national response (to COVID) in my role not as a Cabinet minister, but as a back bencher. It’s a different role but it’s one I take seriously, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”
Dr Minnis has since taken over the role of Minister of Health and said he will remain so “at least until after the budget".
He told reporters on Thursday: “I think it will be unfair for me to name a new minister at this particular time and he or she be placed in a position where they will have to present the health budget to the nation.
“And, I think it will be appropriate that I’m here at this particular time that I should deliver the health budget to the nation and after which I would then appoint a new minister of health soon after I deliver the budget.”