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COVID-19 emergency in the healthcare system

Beginning on July 8, The Bahamas entered a second wave of COVID-19 infections. The highest numbers of infections have been detected on Grand Bahama, followed by New Providence.

A resurgence of the virus on Bimini doubled the total number of cases identified on the island, coupled with infections on neighboring Cat Cay.

And, the virus has now been detected on Abaco, the Berry Islands, Cat Island and Exuma.

Hospitalizations rose from zero on June 30 to 22 as of August 4.

Reportedly, many patients requiring hospitalization are on waiting lists. Some are being accommodated in the Emergency Room (ER) of the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) in Nassau.

Yesterday, PMH’s ER nurses, in their majority, did not report to work.

The best that we could make out is that nurses, without adequate supply of reliable personal protection equipment, including N95 medical grade masks, face shields and protective gowns, were in fear for their health and that of their families. They understandably did not report to duty.

Then, during the day, doctors also abandoned the ER though they were reported to have stayed on the PMH compound.

Doctors reportedly demanded that the overcrowding of COVID-19-positive patients in the ER be addressed by the removal of the infectious patient and their relocation to proper isolation quarters.

A significant number of frontline medical workers, primarily nurses and medical doctors, have been sidelined since the beginning of the pandemic as some patients presenting for treatment at the ER were subsequently found to be COVID-19-positive. So, the urgency of providing adequate protection to these workers is not a new development.

The problem appears to center around the fact that all COVID-19 beds are fully occupied, not only at PMH but also at Doctors Hospital West and presumably on Grand Bahama.

Further, we understand that ventilators are in extremely short supply.

Most egregious, however, we understand, that modifications at the South Beach Clinic, foreshadowed in March, have not been completed, reportedly, for no sensible reason.

As a result, the additional isolation capacity planned in the event of a surge in COVID-19 cases is not now available.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the number of COVID-19 beds on Grand Bahama is limited — a factor of the extreme damage to the Rand Memorial Hospital by Hurricane Dorian.

There are multiple patients waiting to occupy these in what is now the national hotspot of infections of COVID-19 with 330 cases as of yesterday.

Suggestions floated during the early days of the pandemic for the construction of a field hospital on New Providence, similar to that erected by Samaritan’s Purse in Freeport in the aftermath of Dorian, were not taken up at the time and were not acted upon by the prime minister during the period he served as minister of health between May 4 and July 20.

Such field hospitals have been erected in multiple American states, including New York, California, Arizona and next door to us in Florida, all in anticipation of need as the pandemic spread.

Fortunately for some, they did not prove necessary, but they were available and remain available now.

Here, with surges raging on both Grand Bahama and New Providence, the time for planning has expired and the country is left with woefully inadequate resources to fight the pandemic.

The prime minister is fully responsible for this obvious failure in planning and must give a full accounting for his actions.

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