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Doctors union: What is the plan?

Dr. Melisande Bassett.

Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett yesterday called on health officials to “come up with a plan” as she claimed there are insufficient doctors working at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bassett expressed doubt over the hospital’s capacity to keep patients and employees safe from potential exposure to the novel coronavirus, as there is a limited number of beds and space available.

“We’re beyond where we should be concerned,” she said.

“We need to act to come up with a plan. It’s challenging in that our numbers are overwhelming and we don’t have adequate staff to deal with the influx that we’re seeing, in terms of even monitoring the staff and taking care of the staff in addition to the patients and ensuring that they’re cared for. So, it’s a challenge.”

Bassett said with three wards at the hospital impacted by the confirmation of at least one COVID-19 case and the potential exposure of healthcare workers as well as patients, she expressed her concerns to Employee Health officials at the hospital, who assured her that they are going down the line and doing their best to address the issue.

“The hospital has a fixed number of beds, 450 beds, no more,” she said.

“And because of infrastructural challenges, our capacity for the suspected cases has also been under challenge. So, there’s the aspect of ensuring that persons that come in for non-COVID-related issues are secure, that they are safe and that they’re not put at risk.

“We have to ensure that they are safe. We have to ensure that we have a secure place for those positive patients that could potentially spread to other people and the space is limited.

“Four hundred and fifty positive cases, you can see that that can happen at any time given the rate of rise that we’re seeing. So, even the sheer numbers of persons that are being infected will overwhelm the healthcare system.”

When she spoke with The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Bassett explained that some of the doctors were in the process of screening to determine their level of exposure and whether they should be quarantined.

In a statement yesterday, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) said it activated an aggressive reconfiguration of wards across PMH, Rand Memorial Hospital and Sandilands Rehabilitation Center.

“The move comes as the authority has recorded an increase in the number of persons presenting to hospital and staff testing positive for COVID-19, which has put a significant strain on resources including bed capacity,” the statement said.

It continued, “We are making every effort to ensure that no COVID-19-positive patients are housed or treated at the main campuses of our hospitals. All cases identified for hospital care will be referred to the designated government facilities for care.”

Dr. Locksley Munroe, consultant general surgeon, said at least three teams have been negatively impacted by the new surge in cases.

There are over 30 doctors awaiting confirmation of employment.

“We’ve sent a communication and we haven’t heard anything as yet,” Bassett said.

“We’re hoping that, you know, common sense prevails and we get the staff that we need back in hospital because we’re short staffed and we’re overworked.”

On Wednesday, Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams decried the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses on the impacted wards at PMH.

Bassett said she has been in discussion with the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health to assist with restocking PPEs.

“We’ve had meetings to discuss how we’re going to ensure that persons are adequately protected on the wards,” Bassett said.

“I can’t tell you what the ministry’s current stock pile is, but when we are low we usually have to make a call. It’s certainly going to impact what we do if supplies run out.”

Senior Broadcast Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Kyle started with The Nassau Guardian in June 2014 as a broadcast reporter. He began anchoring the newscast four months later. Kyle began writing national news and feature stories in 2016. He covers a wide range of national stories. He previously worked as a reporter at Jones Communications.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Bachelor Media
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