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Doctors union voices concern over staff shortages

Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett yesterday raised concern over a number of issues facing The Bahamas’ healthcare system, including doctor and nurse shortages.

She accused Ministry of Health officials of not bringing the important matters to the public’s attention.

“These are the issues that need to be addressed for the public, and honestly, not platitudes and public utterances,” Bassett said in a statement.

“People’s lives depend on the truth and a plan to fix what is broken.”

Basset described “severe shortages of doctors” due to the government’s refusal to hire a number of recently graduated physicians. 

“The public is not and should not be taken for fools,” she said.

“If there are severe shortages of doctors, which there are, then admit it and say so.

“If the shortage is due to failure to engage the newly graduated senior house officers, then admit it and let the public know why.

“If we were already short-staffed and still terminated seven physicians, then admit to it and say so.”

Bassett said the situation is increasing the strain on an “already-overburdened” healthcare system.

“Let us be honest and admit that the already-overburdened health system, caused by nurse and doctor shortages, with the added COVID pandemic, has only further strained an overburdened system,” she said.

“One does not have to be a genius or rocket scientist to figure out that the physician shortage affects the delivery of services. This is evidenced in Accident and Emergency, and the long wait time to see a doctor.

“A reduced physician staff means [fewer] anesthesiologists to assist in surgeries, [fewer] physicians to assist in deliveries, attend to admitted patients, [and] so the public suffers.”

Bassett also noted that a shortage of nurses has led to patients being held in Accident and Emergency longer than necessary.

“If we were already short of nurses, admit it and say so, for there are fewer wards to transfer patients to, and they must remain in Accident and Emergency for an inordinate period of time because we will not bring in retired nurses to staff the wards,” she said.

Bassett’s comments come as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have increased significantly in recent weeks, with a number of healthcare workers raising concerns over the limits of the healthcare system, due largely to a shortage of nurses.

While many people have warned of a system being pushed to its limits, Minister of Health Renward Wells and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis have not raised any alarm over the state of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, maintaining there is no need for increased restrictions on New Providence, and insisting that vaccination is the solution, despite a shortage of COVID vaccine doses.

Bassett suggested that healthcare must be better prioritized.

“We are always challenged to live up to the dictum, ‘The health of a nation is the wealth of a nation,’” she said.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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