By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Doctors Hospital is “coming in hot” with a multi-million dollar investment in upgrading its healthcare infrastructure that aims to narrow The Bahamas’ bed shortage compared to global benchmarks.
Kendra Sturrup, the BISX-listed healthcare provider’s Grand Bahama director of finance and operations, told the Abaco Business Outlook that it was aiming to close the gap to the World Health Organisation;s (WHO) recommended five in-patient hospital beds per 1,000 persons standard.
Disclosing that Nassau stands at just 1.82 hospital beds per 1,000 population, with 402 at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) and 90 at Doctors Hospital, with an even lower ratio of 1.49 in Grand Bahama at present, she said: “We have begun to look at ways to correct that on both islands.” There is some way to go, though, with New Providence needing to increase its hospital beds by 18.9 per 1,000 persons to hit the WHO target.
But, on Grand Bahama, Doctors Hospital’s $23.5m investment in its new 30-bed hospital at Freeport’s First Commercial Centre will help ease the intensive care unit (ICU) bed shortage in The Bahamas which Ms Sturrup said was exposed by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Of that investment, some $3.5m will be spent on upgrading the building; with a further $1.5m allocated for renovations and repairs; $6.5m for medical equipment; and more than half or $12m getting Doctors Hospital’s operations to a scale where it can meet future healthcare demand and expansion needs.
“This is not a moderate level of investment,” Ms Sturrup said. “We have to come in bold. We have to come in hot, and we have to come in appropriately at the right size. We saw the need with the WHO [ratio], we saw the need in COVID. We saw the shortage of beds.
“This is not an idea. This is happening, and happening very quickly.... We’re coming in hot. We’re not slowing down. We have begun and completed our demolition. We wrapped it up just at the end of August.” She added that drawings and plans for the new hospital were set to be submitted imminently to the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) for review and approval.
The BISX-listed healthcare provider was also talking to Bahamian-owned contractors on the construction work, in a bid to keep as much money circulating in the Grand Bahama and wider economy as possible ahead of the project’s completion in summer 2023.
Despite the focus on the new Grand Bahama hospital and Doctors Hospital’s new Eight Mile Rock clinic, which treated 117 patients after opening in mid-July and another 252 for the full month of August, Ms Sturrup said: “There’s still yet more to come. We are focused on the north, and so we want to ensure we have sufficient infrastructure in the north to scale up.”
She confirmed that Doctors Hospital has acquired a 17-acre site on Mall Drive, just up from Ranfurly Circle, which is where the old Shalimar Hotel was located. And it has also acquired a 26-unit apartment building to house both its associates and patients who have to be brought to Grand Bahama from other islands such as Abaco and Bimini.
Those patients will be exposed to a “concierge” service where they did not have to worry about accommodation and transportation expenses, and will be picked up and ferried between the airport and hospital/clinic.