By EARYEL BOWLEG
MORE than $20m has been earmarked in the upcoming fiscal year for the phased redevelopment of the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
Dr Minnis, who is also minister of health, said $9m is allocated for the phased redevelopment of Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) and Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) in New Providence. He said the Public Hospitals Authority allocation for the new fiscal year is $223,455,825 — a $12,233,817 decrease compared to the previous fiscal cycle.
While giving his contribution yesterday during the budget debate, Dr Minnis outlined budgets for the public health care sector.
Regarding the Rand Memorial Hospital (RMH), he said “it is anticipated that patients and staff will be able to reoccupy the hospital within the first quarter of the 2020/2021 fiscal year”.
The hospital was damaged during Hurricane Dorian last September.
“These restoration efforts are only temporary. The extent of the damage is beyond allowing long-term reoccupation of the existing facility.
“Based on preliminary assessments, it is anticipated that capital costs to restore core clinical and supporting administrative services will be approximately $4.6m. This does not include the cost to replace IT-related and other equipment lost as a result of the hurricane.”
He said the government has set aside funds to address the phased improvements to patient care areas at PMH. A $3.6 million contract was signed in November 2019 to assist with improving and reforming urgent and emergency care in New Providence.
Dr Minnis also said PHA “must rise to the challenge to collect fees for services rendered, especially from those who have the ability to pay” despite the issue of bed shortages.
“Currently, there is a need to accommodate more than 21,000 admissions annually. This means that there are some 271,410 annual patient days. With social distancing requirements and the need to strengthen infection prevention and control (IPC) practices, there will be a reduction in the overall bed complement.”
He added: “Currently, there are 341 adult and paediatric beds and 56 neonatal beds. With a number of wards closed for renovations, the hospital is 50 beds short.”
Bed capacity will increase after ward renovations, but he pointed out it will be within the parameters of social distancing.
The Elizabeth Estates Clinic and the South Beach Health Centre are being upgraded to strengthen their capacity for the delivery of urgent care services at the community level, Dr Minnis said.
The developments are considered to be critical for preparing these two facilities to diagnose and manage lower severity cases requiring urgent and emergency care.
“This will lead to a reduction in the number of patients needing to go to the Emergency Department at Princess Margaret Hospital,” he explained.
Dr Minnis also acknowledged the problem of recruiting and retaining nurses in the public system.
“…The recruitment, training, and retention of nurses remain a major priority for the Ministry of Health. Consequently, funding will be expended in support of the Nursing Cadet Programme for high school students; the nursing finalists who transition to registered or enrolled nurses; and the nursing grant and trained clinical nurse programmes at the University of The Bahamas.”
He said a significant sum has been allocated in this fiscal budget to pay nursing tuition and grants to the University of the Bahamas while funding has been set aside for stipends for trained clinical nurses, clinical nurses and nursing interns.