Category Archives: News

‘State can’t dictate to the church’

Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander said yesterday the state cannot dictate to the church and the religious grouping intends to “engage” with the government to have the one-hour restriction imposed on religious services removed. 

“…I thought we dealt with this the last time the orders came out, so we will have to deal with it again,” Fernander said.

“The state cannot dictate to the church. So, we will engage again. What was done the first time was that portion was taken out. Here we go again. It’s added in again. So, we will have conversations to see how we can correct this as we have done in the past.”

Asked what the rationale could be for the restriction, Fernander said, “It cannot be any rationale if it’s only for the church.

“If there is some kind of medical rationale, it must be so that I can’t spend an hour in the bank, I can’t spend an hour in the food store, I can’t spend an hour in my workplace. 

“But a place of worship is the only place COVID lives for an hour? I think it has always been seen as something that is a stretch towards the church. So, we are going to have that conversation again.”

On Friday, after days of rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Minister of Health Renward Wells announced several new restrictions in an effort to combat the surge. 

Under the new emergency order, which took effect yesterday, religious services are to be limited to one hour, and attendance is confined to 33 percent of the facility’s capacity.

Funeral and cremation services are no longer permitted indoors. Funerals are now confined to gravesides only, and repasts are prohibited.

A maximum of 30 people are allowed at funerals and weddings. Indoor weddings are still permitted.

The measures affect residents in New Providence and Grand Bahama.

“We are back to the place [where] something needs to be done,” Fernander said, regarding the restrictions.

“Obviously, there will be challenges with the community of those who lost loved ones and are laying them to rest that we can now have 30 persons around the graveyard, but we cannot have memorials, funerals, and the like to say our final goodbyes. 

“No matter what you do that is going to be challenging for families for that to happen.”

Following the announcement on Friday, Minister Kevin Harris, director of Bahamas Information Services, the government’s communications arm, declared on his Facebook page: “As pastor, I will determine how long my sermon will run. There is no limit on how long I can worship God.”

Harris also posted: “If there is no limit on how long you can be in the number house, there should be no limit on how long I can be in the Lord’s House..”.

Fernander, who was asked generally about pastors who say they will not adhere to the one-hour restriction, said, “The pastors will do what’s in the best interest of the congregants and we will try to keep them safe.

“That’s the best that we can do until we finish negotiations.”

The new restrictions on funerals were put in place after several videos showing large funeral processions and Junkanoo rushouts were circulated on social media.

Health officials said they are grappling with new COVID patients presenting at the hospital every day. Officials say patients are generally more ill during this wave than they were in the second wave with the hospital administrator reporting the situation was “grim”. 

As of July 25, 92 people were in hospital. 

133 new cases reported; two more deaths

The Ministry of Health said yesterday that 133 people tested positive for COVID-19 on July 25 and confirmed that two more people died of the virus. 

 In total, 14,252 cases of COVID have been reported since last year.

Two hundred and eighty-four people have died of the virus. 

The latest deaths, both of which occurred in New Providence, are a 26-year-old man who died on July 14 and a 73-year-old man who died on July 19. 

Of the new cases, 90 were reported on New Providence, 23 on Grand Bahama, seven on Eleuthera, six on Exuma, three on Andros, one on Abaco, one on Bimini and Cat Cay, one on Long Island, and one case is pending location. 

Ninety-two people are in hospital with 10 people in the intensive care unit. 

There are 1,578 active cases of COVID in the country with 12,298 recovered cases.

New rule on campaigning will change the way we do politics

With new restrictions in place, which require that anyone campaigning is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, of 32 candidates from the two major political parties vying for seats in the next election who spoke with The Nassau Guardian yesterday, 27 said they are fully vaccinated.

Two candidates said they aren’t vaccinated, one candidate said he was partially vaccinated and two declined to comment.

Among a number of measures announced on Friday to help slow the spread of COVID-19 amid a new surge, the government, for the first time, implemented restrictions for political campaign workers, who are required to be fully vaccinated and may only campaign in groups of five.

Some Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidates said yesterday that while they are vaccinated, some of their team members are not. 

Some admitted the new restrictions create a challenge for campaigning efforts, but said adjustments will be made. 

Dr. Duane Sands, former minister of health, and the FNM’s candidate for Elizabeth, who is fully vaccinated, said his team is a “mixed bag”.

“Some are vaccinated, some are not,” Sands said.

“Some don’t believe in vaccines, and so, we did not campaign this weekend specifically because I didn’t want to have any pile of people behind me and run the risk of saying that we were hypocrites.

“…And so, I have instructed them to determine who is vaccinated and who is not, and those who are vaccinated can come with me, and those who aren’t, they can do something else.” 

Former Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis, the PLP’s candidate for St. Barnabas, said he and two of his team members are fully vaccinated.

But Halkitis said he is still considering suspending his door-to-door campaign given the current surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations. 

“Given the surge, personally, we have to really consider whether we want to really suspend the door-to-door campaign because if we have the Delta variant…we are actually considering on my side, actually, suspending the door-to-door,” he said.

Halkitis, however, said it would be helpful if Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis would be more transparent about the election timeline, so that others could feel more comfortable stepping back their campaign efforts.

“I think it might behoove him to say to the nation, ‘Let’s dial it back in the interest of public health,’” he said. 

“And then that would give an indication to everybody to sort of stand down a bit.

“But no party is going to stop their activity totally when he is out there campaigning and doing everything that suggests that the election is [near].” 

Leslia Brice, the PLP’s candidate for Seabreeze, said she is also fully vaccinated, but her team is not.

“I have been vaccinated after careful consideration and discussion with my physician,” she said.

“…At that time, I was really in the middle of my campaigning and going door-to-door. So, I really wanted to ensure that I did everything that I possibly can to remain in good health while still going door-to-door.”

Brice said while the new restrictions may slightly hinder the campaign, she views this as an opportunity to be innovative in her campaigning.  

“Where some may see it as an obstacle, my team and I see it as an opportunity to do all that we can to be innovative and adapt to the circumstances to ensure Seabreeze residents see me, they know me and they’re ready to support me,” she said.

“So, we are about to announce our virtual campaign efforts. And hopefully, lead the way in innovative campaigning. We have to think of another way, and so I am on the ball.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield, the FNM’s candidate for North Abaco, said he is fully vaccinated, but added he was not sure how many of his team members are.

“Campaigning will be different for all in this COVID-19 environment,” he said.

Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd, the FNM’s candidate for South Beach, said he has been vaccinated “long time”.

As for his team members, he said all of them have received “at least one shot” and he assured that they will comply with the restrictions. Lloyd said he will verify the vaccination status of his campaign team members by requiring them to present their vaccination cards to him. 

PLP candidate for South Eleuthera Clay Sweeting said his team members have reservations about the vaccine.

Sweeting, who is fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, said maybe two people on his campaign team are fully vaccinated.

Asked if he is concerned about the impact it may have on his campaign, Sweeting said, “Of course, I’m concerned…People do want to see you one-on-one.” 

Opposition

John Pinder, the PLP candidate for Central and South Abaco, said he views the restrictions on campaigning as a threat to civil liberties.

Pinder said he plans to get vaccinated but has not yet, and noted that he gets tested for COVID-19 weekly “to ensure the safety of all”.

“I am not fully vaccinated because, from what I understood, there weren’t enough vaccines for all Bahamians, and the elderly and those with underlying health conditions were to go first,” he said.

“Living on a Family Island, I knew that it would be a while for everybody to get vaccinated…I do plan to get vaccinated.

“And these current restrictions that were put in place, I believe are against our civil liberties.”

PLP candidate for Freetown, Wayne Munroe, QC, said he is not taking an “experimental vaccine”.

He said he believes the wording of the emergency order is unclear, but noted that if campaign workers are required to be vaccinated, it could be “unconstitutional”.

“If it purports to say that…in my view, it wouldn’t be constitutional, and, of course, it would be challenged,” he said.

Munroe said emergency orders should be “rational” and “directed towards stopping the spread”, as he noted that the order allows for more than five unvaccinated people to go to the gym, attend church, go to the theater and go out to dinner at hotel properties. 

“So, what is the qualitative difference?” Munroe asked. 

He said if it is found to be unconstitutional, and one could argue that the order impacted campaigning efforts and the results of the upcoming general election, those results could be challenged.

“If, in fact, it is unconstitutional, it won’t matter when the court determines that it’s unconstitutional; the effect of the declaration will be given forth,” Munroe said.

“…If it is unconstitutional and it takes a year to declare it so, and you’ve had a general election in the interim, and some opposition person complains that they were hampered, then presumably the results of the election could be set aside; a very irresponsible thing to do if you are the government.

“I don’t think these fellows think things through. I know they have a problem with getting back into powder on the ground, but, you know, there’s a way that you address that.”

Others

Mario Bowleg, the PLP’s candidate for Garden Hills, said he is partially vaccinated, and agrees with putting the health of the country first.

“I’m not fully vaccinated,” he said.

“I’ve taken the first shot and waiting for the second dose, which I should be getting in a few weeks.

“The measures set in place will impact my campaign and that of others. However, we must be safe and the overall health of the country must be placed at the forefront.”

FNM candidate for MICAL Miriam Emmanuel said she and her team are all fully vaccinated. FNM candidate for St. Anne’s Adrian White said so, too.

“I am fully vaccinated, [in the] two-shot club,” White said.

“My road canvassing team is as well.”

Deputy Prime Minister Desmond Bannister, the FNM’s candidate for Carmichael, said he and the majority of his team are fully vaccinated.

“I am fully vaccinated, as are approximately 20 members of my campaign team,” he said.

“We fully support the order and have always complied with the law. We will only meet in small groups. 

“My biggest challenge is creating a protocol for meeting constituents, as these interactions are typically face-to-face.”

Nicole Martin, the FNM’s Nassau Village candidate, said she is fully vaccinated, as well as “a number” of her team members.

The PLP’s Nassau Village candidate, Jamahl Strachan, said he and enough of his supporters are fully vaccinated. 

“I’m fully vaccinated, and I have the allowed amount of supporters needed to campaign and be compliant with the orders,” he said.

FNM Centreville candidate Courtney Coulibaly, who is fully vaccinated, also said the new restrictions don’t impact his efforts significantly.

“The new restrictions don’t really affect my campaign because, for one, I would say 80 to 85 percent of the persons that are loyal, dedicated persons, who come out consistently, are fully vaccinated,” he said.

“…When we go out, we don’t go out in big crowds anymore. So, five persons is an OK crowd.”

A number of other candidates indicated that they were fully vaccinated, but it is unclear if their teams are. 

PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, the MP for the Exumas and Ragged Island, was among them.

“My wife and I were vaccinated, amongst the first to do so, when the process opened at Loyola Hall,” he said.

“Whilst I encourage others to do so if it is right for them, I point out that the decision to vaccinate is a personal one based on individual preferences and medical advice. There should be no attempts at coercion.”

Also reporting that they are fully vaccinated were FNM candidate for Golden Isles Brian Brown; FNM candidate for North Andros and the Berry Islands Carlton Bowleg; FNM candidate for North Eleuthera Rickey Mackey; FNM candidate for the Exumas and Ragged Island Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson; FNM candidate for Pinewood Reuben Rahming; FNM candidate for Golden Gates Michael Foulkes; FNM candidate for Garden Hills Stephen Greenslade;  FNM candidate for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador Felicia Knowles; FNM candidate for Mangrove Cay and South Andros Ken Smith, and FNM candidate for Central Grand Bahama Iram Lewis. 

West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe, who is the FNM’s candidate again for the consistency in the upcoming election, said she received her second dose of the vaccine yesterday, but she won’t be considered fully vaccinated until two weeks have passed. 

Maxine Seymour, the FNMs candidate for Seabreeze, also said she has received both doses and is awaiting the lapse of the two-week period.

Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin, who is the PLP’s candidate for the constituency, declined to comment when contacted.

PLP candidate for Elizabeth, JoBeth Coleby-Davis, said she did not wish to disclose her vaccination status because she believes it is a personal choice and said “the vaccination status of an individual, based on their personal circumstances, only serves to detract from issues at hand”.

“People should not be coerced, but rather persuaded to be vaccinated through a national focus on vaccine education and training to enhance public trust in the vaccination,” she said.

Minnis, the FNM candidate for Killarney; Minister of Health Renward Wells, the FNM candidate for Bamboo Town and PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis, who is the PLP’s candidate for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, are fully vaccinated, but it is still unclear if their teams are.

In a statement issued yesterday, Davis said he encouraged PLP candidates to abide by the order and not “campaign” if they are unvaccinated. However, he said there is nothing stopping unvaccinated candidates and teams from exercising their “right to free speech”.

“You are free to converse with Bahamians about any topics you wish, including the economic and health crisis,” Davis said.

He also said the PLP was examining “avenues for legal recourse”. 

Summer camp operator says govt should have given camps more notice

The late-night announcement by the government on Sunday that summer camps on New Providence and Grand Bahama are prohibited caught many camp organizers by surprise and left them scrambling. 

Allandra Russell, the coordinator of Bridge the Gap Summer Camp, said yesterday that her camp was in its fifth and final week. 

Russell said she learned about the new law when she woke up around 4 a.m. yesterday. She said a friend sent her a message after 11 p.m. on Sunday. 

“I was shocked because there was no prior knowledge of it,” she said.

“I know, initially, there was some mention of recreational activities but there was nothing specifically mentioning summer school or that of summer camps. 

“At 4 a.m., I was looking for parents’ numbers and WhatsApping about 35, 40 parents to inform them of what I found out.”

Russell said she had two parents who she could not reach who showed up at the camp. 

“They were really, really shocked by it,” she said. 

The amendment to the emergency powers law was released at 10:20 p.m. on Sunday. 

On Friday, Minister of Health Renward Wells announced several new restrictions to fight off a surge of COVID-19 cases. 

He did not mention that summer camps were prohibited.

Russell said the government should have given camp organizers an earlier warning. 

“At least when they would’ve done their communication on Friday, that should have been said right then and there,” she said.

“I’m thinking they realized they might have missed it and they rectified it by putting that out on Sunday night. 

“Parents have to go to work. So, you have these parents who have to go to work waking up to a message that, hey, there is nowhere to take their kids.”

She said she will have to issue refunds to parents.

The camp provides students with a blend of academics, literacy and numeracy skills, and extracurricular activities, she said. 

Russell said she was expecting roughly 40 kids, ages three to nine, to take part in the camp this week.

Campers who were set to start Ardastra Gardens’ “The Great Garden Escape” camp yesterday were turned away. 

An official declined to comment.

Bahamas Rowing, the governing body of competitive indoor, outdoor and coastal rowing in the country, which was holding a rowing summer camp, said it was discontinuing its camp as well. 

“In compliance with the new updated COVID-19 orders, The Bahamas Rowing Summer Camp will discontinue with immediate effect,” it said on its Facebook page.

Mandatory vaccine for health workers would be ‘unethical stretch’

Former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that it would be “an ethical stretch” to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers.

“We’re still in emergency use authorization mode as opposed to approval,” Sands told The Nassau Guardian.

“So, it’s still, I think, an ethical stretch to mandate that somebody get a treatment or a vaccination, which is still not yet approved. Emergency use authorization and 3.8 billion doses is a pretty compelling argument about general use and general safety.

“I think we now have a pretty extensive track record. We can look at the vaccine adverse effect registry and see that the number of vaccine-related deaths is extremely low when compared to the number of vaccinations. When I say extremely, I mean really, really rare.”

He said the issue of mandatory vaccination, especially among healthcare workers, is a “topical” one, globally.

“We’re watching various countries adopt a pretty aggressive stance or posture towards insisting that healthcare workers, in particular, be vaccinated,” Sands said.

“I don’t think we’re at that point yet in The Bahamas. While I can understand the basis of that movement, I think you need to have a few things in place first. One is that you have access to robust information, education. Two is that you have options for people. So, if people are afraid of a particular vaccine, then they have an alternative that is better suited to their particular health demographic.”

Sands noted that in some countries, young people are given Pfizer or Moderna rather than AstraZeneca, which has a rare side effect of blood clots.

He said it will likely be “a totally easy sell” to make the vaccine mandatory once information surrounding the vaccine is properly relaid to the public and options are given.

Sands said there is a combination of fear, vaccine hesitancy, and “flat out anti-vaccination disinformation movements”.

“Back to your question: where should we stand on the mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers? Knowing what I know about Bahamian healthcare workers, I don’t think you’re going to get very far,” he said.

“We had this discussion about the flu vaccine. As you know, the flu vaccine is not a mandatory vaccination in The Bahamas although it is in other places for healthcare workers. Hepatitis B vaccination is mandatory in many countries for healthcare workers. It’s not mandatory in The Bahamas.

“So, it’s an important conversation. I think that it should be a dispassionate, open conversation to allow the issues to be ventilated and maybe eventually we will get there. But I don’t think we’re going to get there anytime soon.” 

France recently made vaccination against COVID mandatory for healthcare workers.

Medical groups, which represent doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers, yesterday, called for mandatory vaccinations of personnel in the United States.

The vaccine is not mandatory in The Bahamas. 

On Friday, when asked about the vaccination rate among healthcare workers, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said, “We recognize the need for that grouping to be on board with vaccinations and in our discussions, I would say deliberations in the health EOC (emergency operations center), a recommendation would have been put forward for consideration of mandatory vaccinations of healthcare workers because of the significance of that group.

“… We have to work closely with the health provider grouping to understand their concerns and also to understand even if they have a concern with being vaccinated…”

As of July 24, 103,164 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in The Bahamas. 

Sixty thousand five hundred and seventy-eight people have received one dose of the vaccine and 43,943 people, including those who got it abroad, received both doses. 

Work temporarily halted on new US embassy after worker tests positive for COVID-19

US Embassy Public Affairs Officer Daniel Durazo said yesterday that construction on the new US embassy on Shirley Street has been temporarily halted after “one or more” suspected COVID-19 cases were discovered among private contractors at the construction site.

“Of the individuals who have tested positive, none have yet received a COVID-19 vaccine,” Durazo told The Nassau Guardian in a statement.

“Out of an abundance of caution, work at the construction site has temporarily been suspended. However, the main embassy building on Queen Street remains unaffected. Our consular operations (including US citizen services, student visa appointments, and other emergency services) and other operations remain functional.”

He said health and safety remain the embassy’s top priority.

Durazo said it continues to work closely with the US State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to protect the health and safety of our community”.

“Regardless of vaccination status, all employees continue to be instructed to follow the appropriate guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“In addition, this week, on Thursday and Friday, July 29-30, the State Department will be vaccinating the workers of the construction site. The planning for this vaccination effort has been underway for two months, long before this outbreak was identified.

“This plan is part of a broader proactive Department of State effort to vaccinate workers at similar construction projects around the world.”

In October 2019, the embassy broke ground to begin construction on its new $318 million building, which is expected to be completed in 2023. The five-acre site for the new building is located at the junction of East Street and Shirley Street.

As of February, the building was one-third completed following delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes. 

Signs of hope on Abaco

MARSH HARBOUR, Abaco — The scars of Hurricane Dorian are just as visible on parts of Abaco as they were in the immediate aftermath of the monster Category 5 storm.

When The Nassau Guardian touched down at the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport on September 5, 2019 — just two days after the storm devastated the northern Bahamas — there were dozens of people lining the airport’s gate, begging to be evacuated.

This was not the case when The Guardian touched down at that same airport on Friday.

While the small, eight-seat plane only landed at the international airport to taxi to Cherokee Aviation, it was evident that, although not swarmed with desperate, traumatized residents begging to be saved from the nightmare left in Dorian’s trail, this was an island that still has lots of healing.

Unlike before, there were no Royal Bahamas Defence Force marines — armed with firearms — guarding the area as a result of security concerns.

There were no aid workers giving out water and food to families who had just lost everything, including loved ones.

But one of the airport’s buildings still had a chunk of its roof missing and a short drive to the city’s main street, which serves as its economic hub, revealed slow reconstruction for many businesses, which appeared as though they had been struck by Dorian the day before.

Buildings stood gutted by the storm with roofs and walls still missing.

“The downtown core of the central business district of Marsh Harbour is coming back,” Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton told The Guardian.

“I mean, however, we still have a lot of work to do. Last week, I drove through downtown and counted 15 buildings that are on the main commercial boulevard that are still in a state of destruction and that’s a good chunk for a small town.”

He said reconstruction is moving slow on the island.

Hutton said Abaco has “a good” five to eight years of rebuilding ahead of it.

“One of the things that we desperately need is these extensions, these VAT (value-added tax) and duty exemptions to continue [but] not in six-month tranches,” he said.

“We need a good, solid three years with no VAT or duty on building supplies and construction services. That needs to be done because one of the big things is people cannot find contractors right now because everyone’s busy.

“New contractors can’t come in because there’s nowhere for them to live or for their staff to live. So, as a result, that’s really affecting how much construction can be done.”

The government designated Abaco and East Grand Bahama as special economic recovery zones following Dorian. The designation permitted duty-free purchases on all materials, fixtures, furniture, vehicles and equipment needed for business and residential construction. Other economic concessions were also offered.

Dorian — the strongest storm on record to hit The Bahamas —ravaged the two islands during the first three days of September 2019.

With the storm surge reaching 30 feet on Abaco, the storm wiped out whole communities. Dorian killed at least 74 people and left scores of men, women and children missing.

The storm caused $3.4 billion in damage and displaced more than 70,000 people.

Glender Archer-Knowles, a tour operator and resident of Marsh Harbour, was among those impacted.

While she was not on the island during the storm, Archer-Knowles said her apartment was among those damaged.

“All the roofs got knocked off in that area,” she said.

“I don’t know if it was a tornado or whatever it was. I’m now staying with my mother. I’m back to be a mother’s girl.”

When asked if she was rebuilding, Archer-Knowles replied, “Well, I actually manage her apartments. We rebuilt one but the police urgently needed housing to bring policemen in. So, we gave them those first set and we’re getting ready to build the second set. But you know that takes a minute with insurance and all of that.”

Bradley Fox, a resident of Marsh Harbour, was among those who decided to rebuild after his family’s home was destroyed in Spring City.

He said reconstruction did not start until August 2020.

Nearly one year later, according to Fox, the house is almost completed.

“God is good and that’s all I can say,” he said.

“Things are happening. We’ve been busting tail and working hard.”

While reconstruction appears slow-moving, Fox said things on the island are moving much faster this year than they were at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“On Marsh Harbour, itself, you would see construction being done on every fourth site but now it’s every site,” he said.

“…Once they’re done with second homeowners and stuff on the cays, people are freeing up some of that labor force. The mainland is starting to see some work being done.”

Court of Appeal appoints lawyer for man appealing 33-year sentence

The Court of Appeal has appointed a lawyer for a man who claimed that he pleaded guilty to murder and armed robbery while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana.

During a court appearance on July 13, Timothy Cole, 49, alleged that he was not in his right mind when he pleaded guilty to the charges before Senior Justice Bernard Turner last year.

On February 10, 2020, Cole pleaded guilty to the armed robbery and murder of Inspector Carlis Blatch and was sentenced to 33 years as part of a plea deal. The officer was at H.O. Nash Junior High School to collect his child when a gunman confronted him.

Blatch drew his firearm, but he was shot dead by the assailant who stole the car that Blatch was driving. Police recovered the stolen car a short time later.

Cole alleged that his public defender took advantage of him and misled him.

Cole told the court, “I didn’t understand nothing what was going on until three months later. I don’t know what kind of drugs been inside that marijuana and alcohol. I ain’t catch myself for like three months.”

Yesterday, attorney Christina Galanos accepted an appointment to represent Cole at his appeal.

The matter is set to be heard on September 28.

Shortage of healthcare workers critical element of current crisis, CPSA head warns again 

With COVID-19 cases soaring in The Bahamas, Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler yesterday urged the government to address a shortage of doctors and nurses.

“The healthcare system, I think, is perhaps beyond its breaking point,” Pinder-Butler said.

“We had many ward closures. We still don’t have sufficient staff, which I think is our biggest problem, one that, unfortunately, we’ve been talking about since last year. You know, how do we make sure that we have sufficient staff, physician staff, nursing staff to care for the patients?

“…At the end of the day, even if we have more space and more beds, which is still a challenge, if we don’t have the staff to care for these persons we are still not able to provide the standard of care.

“And I think that’s really one of our main concerns, along with the fact that our physicians are fatigued. They are burnt out, and beyond being burnt out, we don’t have sufficient persons to allow people to have proper relief. We don’t have sufficient numbers…for the ratio of care that we should have for patients.”

More than 1,500 new COVID cases have been confirmed in the country so far this month, with 92 people hospitalized with COVID as of Sunday.

Pinder-Butler said more should have been done sooner to prevent the healthcare system from reaching this critical point. 

“I think right now our healthcare system is in a poor state,” she said.

“We would have heard, as you said, from the health officials, from the ministry level as well as from PMH administrators who have confirmed what we have been actually advising for months now.

“…And so, with time, I think it was inevitable that we would get at this point if nothing was done. And it seemed that not much was being done.”

Pinder-Butler noted that healthcare unions have been raising concern over the staffing issue since last year, but it has changed little. She noted that doctors have been let go, despite the challenges. 

“It’s really not good,” she said.

“And I think that we have been talking about the shortfalls related to that from, I think, last year, when we asked for the help from Samaritan’s Purse, for example. We received that somewhat later, but we knew that we had a challenge with staffing. 

“Despite a challenge with staffing, we let go physicians. I don’t understand how that could happen in a time when you already know there’s a crisis and a shortage, but we continued to let go of physicians.

“And we have had other persons who have left because of the fatigue, because of the disrespect, because of the low morale at this time. And so, we are really in a crisis.”

Pinder-Butler suggested finding innovative ways to get the funding to hire people, as well as providing incentives, like special pay. She said perhaps funds should be diverted from other initiatives to help solve the issue.

“When you’re in a crisis, you have to think outside the box,” she said.

“And if you don’t have the manpower to care for patients, are we going to just let people not get the care that they need and potentially have more persons die? I mean, is that what we’re doing now? So, I think we’re really beyond that point.

“We’ve had physicians who were let go. I think the government needs to look at trying to rehire them, whether it’s temporary, during a crisis or not.

“We need to look at the SHOs (senior house officers) that were sent home; they need to be rehired to help as well. We need to ensure that we hire the interns that are coming out. You know, we need to seriously look at these things now, not tomorrow.

“We should have been looking at them from months before, because, again, we saw these things coming.

“You know, we spoke of them to the powers that be hoping that they would put things in action to make sure that we don’t get to that point. And yes, we know that the economy has had challenges.

“But certainly, if you can’t provide healthcare for your people, we’re in trouble. And we’re beyond that now because we even have tourists who are accessing our healthcare facilities.”

Butler-Pinder added, “Everything else right now would still be like putting band-aids and tissues where there are little holes, but we’re not addressing what needs to be addressed.”

Man shot by police on Abaco charged with assaulting officers

A man, who was shot by police in Abaco on July 19, has been charged.

Emmanuel Jean, 35, of Dundas Town, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with a dangerous instrument at his arraignment before Magistrate Algernon Allen Jr.

Prosecutors allege that Jean assaulted two police officers with a grey Chevy Cobalt while on the Ernest Dean Highway.

According to initial police reports, Jean allegedly tried to evade a police traffic checkpoint, which resulted in a pursuit.

Jean allegedly ran from his car and the officers opened fire and shot Jean in his buttocks after they allegedly saw him reach for an object.

Jean was airlifted to New Providence for medical care and was brought before a magistrate on the island after his release from hospital.

However, Jean’s trial will be held before Magistrate Ancella Evans in Abaco.

He was granted $5,000 bail and his next court date is September 10.