The prime minister, in his national address of Easter Monday, made a special, specific appeal to his fellow doctors in private practice to join the national effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
COVID-19 is a national public health emergency. We, all of us, are at war with it.
The prime minister reminded his fellow physicians of the solemn oath which they, like him, had sworn as a rite of passage as new medical graduates; a promise to do no harm and to observe universal ethical standards in the practice of their profession. And he promised to join them if need be on the front lines of this war against the spread of the coronavirus.
We were surprised therefore by the ask, disbelieving that there are doctors who have failed to show up on the frontline of this war.
Then, on Tuesday, demands made by the Doctors Union in an April 11 letter were made known. The union conveyed demands of its membership to be satisfied ahead of their commitment to provide services to Bahamian COVID-19 patients. The demands included confirmation of additional pay and special health insurance coverage.
We are very conscious that one doctor, Judson Eneas, has already paid the ultimate price for his service. And, we are all aware of the significant number of healthcare workers who have been exposed to the disease, as many as 50 having been removed from duty and placed in quarantine more than a week ago, according to the Ministry of Health.
The implication for them and for their families is enormous.
The Ministry of Health today in a statement lauded the dedicated professionals on the frontline of the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. The ministry gave assurances that personal protective equipment (PPE) will be available for all those interacting with COVID-19 patients and joined the prime minister’s clarion call for additional doctors to join the fight and to help run the new facilities coming online to house and treat COVID-19 patients.
The ministry also advised of special honorarium for physicians on the frontline and of a life insurance benefit proactively and defensively already in place.
The union’s letter confirmed the great reluctance by some of its members, engaged in the public health system, to respond to the national health emergency.
The union claimed, almost incomprehensibly, that some doctors require training in applying PPE.
We are encouraged by statements by the president of the Doctors Union reported in the media on Wednesday, that they are in full accord with the government in its strategy to combat the spread of the coronavirus and acknowledging that the Ministry of Health has responded to concerns of doctors brought to its attention.
We do not pretend to know the fear that medical and healthcare personnel must feel when faced with treating a deadly, contagious disease.
We have always believed that doctors were a special breed, trained and dedicated to caring for their fellow man and bound by the moral code of physicians, honorable and principled in the performance of their duty.
These are not ordinary times. We are in a national emergency. This is a time for bravery and courage.
It has been said that bravery is not the absence of fear but action in the face of fear.
This cannot be a time for immaturity motivated by a combination of fear and self-promotion, topped with an interest in financial gain.
We join our voice with all who continually express gratitude and appreciation for healthcare workers and particularly acknowledge our debt to those on the frontline of this war against COVID-19.
And, we call on all medical professionals in the country to respond to the call from the prime minister for all to join the national fight against the spread of COVID-19.