SINCE he resigned his post as Minister of Health, Dr Duane Sands has been an increasingly vocal figure commenting on the government’s approach to tackling COVID-19.
Vocal too, of course, has been Opposition leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, who yesterday spoke out again about how The Bahamas has become a case study of how not to manage a public health crisis.
But as we face this ongoing crisis, does all comment have to be taken as criticism?
It would be presumptuous to think that one side is all wise and all knowing, and all other sides are wrong. There are different approaches in tackling this pandemic – and being open to suggestions from outside parties is simply being sensible. That said, not all comments are constructive.
Take the latest comments, for example – Dr Sands says our approach in the past six to eight months has not worked, but offers a suggestion of a way forward, building a modular COVID facility to concentrate care, perhaps with 150 beds. He also suggests testing everyone who comes into the hospital – every single person. He highlights the difficulty non-COVID patients are having with resources stretched when it comes to dealing with heart attacks, or strokes, or dialysis.
These are suggestions from a medic on the ground as well as a former minister with the understanding of the larger system. On the other hand, Mr Davis chiefly took potshots at the reasons for keeping the emergency orders in place, and wanted to see data behind the decisions to close beaches or to choose a certain time for a curfew.
He also cited Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ lack of answering to the public, by giving national addresses rather than press conferences where he can be questioned. Now Mr Davis may have a point in some of this, but he doesn’t offer a path forward. “Lockdowns are not a plan,” he says. Perhaps so, but simply saying that doesn’t conjure up a new plan.
A lack of transparency is a problem for this government, undoubtedly – and eyebrow-raising comments such as Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes yesterday claiming that most non-hotel workers who have been laid off due to the pandemic are now back at work don’t help. We would be surprised if all the hairdressers and gardeners, the restaurant staff and excursion tour employees, the Bay Street store staff and the Mall workers whose shops are shuttered are back at work. The lack of a reliable figure on unemployment is also unhelpful – it’s been months of the pandemic now and the news that the Department of Statistics has suspended its jobs survey sounds like a way of hiding bad news more than anything else.
Those in power should not just speak, but also listen. If someone not in a minister’s suit has a good idea, it should be considered and acted upon if it would help.
As Dr Sands says, “We need to be talking to each other, listening to each other. Not shouting and rowing and screaming at each other because the lives of the people of the country is at stake. The economy of this country is at stake. We don’t need to (be) bickering and shouting and talking about FNM and PLP and DNA, we need to be working together to solve this problem.”
If ever there was a challenge that needed to be met with unity, it is this pandemic. We urge all sides to do what they can together to beat it – rather than look for political point scoring.
Deal done, deal not done, deal still being negotiated, deal waiting on a harbour purchase… if you’ve been following the long-running saga of the Grand Lucayan, you’ll be forgiven for wondering about its twists and turns.
The purchase now appears to hinge on a conclusion to a deal for Freeport Harbour – so that all parts of the purchase can be done at once.
Commercial sensitivities abound here, of course – the Grand Lucayan buyers don’t want to go through with buying the hotel only to find themselves hung out to dry if something goes wrong with the harbour deal.
The government, of course, wants the Lucayan bought, done, sorted and the clock started on its reopening, complete with the hiring of local staff. There is a new date lined up for the Lucayan completion – December this year – but plenty of such dates have whooshed by already, so don’t put any store on that until the ink is dry on the page.
What we don’t want to see happen is the government being locked in to one purchaser to the extent that it reduces the value of what we get. We don’t want to see the hotel used purely to gain advantage elsewhere. When the deal was signed, it was to the advantage of all – abiding by the spirit of that would still see a win for everyone.