With COVID-19 cases mounting once again, there have been renewed calls for the government to provide a facility to make testing free for members of the public.
Dr. Susan Williams-Lockhart, a surgeon and physician who has worked on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the government would be better off covering the costs of free tests for residents, rather than covering the costs of hospital care for the increasing number of Bahamians showing up to the public hospital gravely ill.
“I think we should be testing much more frequently, I think we should be testing for free. I think the cost for paying for an RT-PCR test at $120 is a lot cheaper. The cost of having someone in intensive care is $5,000 a day for nursing a bed and everything. So you do the math, it’s a lot cheaper. I think RT-PCR should be made free and the government should pay for it. You tell people anyone who wants to be tested can come. That way you will be able to isolate who is ill and keep them in one area,” she said while appearing as a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show “The Hit Back with Nahaja Black”.
“I would like for there to be some facility made for more testing. People just don’t have the money right now, people are hurting.”
Her comments came just before Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ national address last night on the government’s response to the spike in COVID-19 cases this summer.
The Ministry of Health reported 130 new cases on Tuesday, adding to the more than 1,500 new COVID-19 infections for the month of July alone.
Dr. Williams-Lockhart said the less expensive rapid antigen tests have proven to give false negatives, giving Bahamians false security in what is becoming a growing crisis in the country.
“The issue is that a PCR test is about five times the cost of a rapid. Many people in this day and age do not have the money for a PCR test, it’s about $100 to $135 and many people do not have that so they are not proceeding to PCR testing, they say my rapid antigen was negative, I’m good and the answer is no it’s not like that. It may have to do with the variant and the strain,” she said.
Dr. Williams-Lockhart added that the government’s next move should be to require all that travelers coming into the country to provide a negative COVID test.
“I also hope that they will implement testing for people coming into the country. If people have to test to go back to the USA, why shouldn’t they have to test to come here, we are no worse than them or less than them,” she said.
As of July 26, The Bahamas has had more than 14,400 cases of COVID-19. In total, there have been just over 118,000 RT PCR tests completed in the country.