Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed yesterday that the government is in discussions with the United States government about a United States Coast Guard (USCG) directive issued to cruise ships, telling them to continue to remain at sea and to send severely ill patients to the country under which the ship is flagged.
For many cruise ships that call on ports in Florida, that means sending severely ill patients to New Providence or Grand Bahama, where there are facilities set up to treat COVID-19 infections.
“Yes, I’m aware of that,” Minnis said when asked about the U.S. directive during a press conference.
“There is an ongoing discussion between ourselves and the United States government.”
The USCG’s Marine Safety Bulletin for March 29 explained that medical facilities in South Florida are stretched thin by COVID-19.
“Medical facilities in the Port of Miami [are] no longer accepting MEDEVAC patients due to limited hospital capacity and it is expected that neighboring counties will follow suit,” the bulletin read.
“Foreign flagged vessels that loiter beyond U.S. territorial seas, particularly those registered to The Bahamas, that require MEDEVAC to a shoreside facility, should seek flag state support prior to seeking support from the limited facilities in the U.S.”
The bulletin, signed by Rear Admiral E.C. Jones, also suggested that patients being treated aboard cruise vessels might have better “access to comfortable surroundings and medical staff on board the foreign passenger vessel”.
The USCG also suggested to cruise companies that if they have more than 50 passengers remaining on board, to increase their medical capabilities.
COVID-19 has placed immense financial pressure on cruise companies.