Hospital woes

Some countries, notably more developed than developing ones, long ago recognized the importance of long-term planning relating to national infrastructure development and maintenance.

Those countries that are more successful at it ensure that plans, whether for roads and transportation expansion, water and sewerage extension, solid waste collection, or enhancement of healthcare systems, enjoy a consensus of support across political parties.

It prevents lost time, effort and money expended on plans that are subsequently not permitted to be implemented. And it averts lengthy parliamentary wrangling over which government or political party holds greatest blame or is deserving of credit for the state of national infrastructure.

During the parliamentary debate on Wednesday on the new Nurses and Midwives Bill, the former prime minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis, and the current, Philip Davis, traded barbs on which government bore responsibility for the deplorable state of Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).

Late in his term, in August 2021, Minnis’ government signed two contracts totaling some $90 million for infrastructural upgrades to PMH and Rand Memorial Hospital on Grand Bahama.

The works at PMH were to include repairs to the Eye Ward, Female Medical, Physiotherapy Unit, Children’s and Male Medical Wards, and further provide for construction of a new Infectious Disease Ward and the construction of a six-story structure to house a new Obstetrics and Gynecology Ward, a Children’s Ward, a Surgical Ward, Medical Ward, private hospital boarding rooms and ancillary services.

The project was to be designed by the Beck Group, the company that designed and oversaw the state-of-the-art Critical Care Block at PMH, a project launched in 2011 by a prior FNM government and completed in 2013 after a number of changes instigated by the succeeding PLP government.

On Grand Bahama, a new four-level hospital complex was to be constructed at the Rand Memorial site.

Funding for the contracts had been secured and the loan was guaranteed by the World Bank‘s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

The new prime minister, Philip Davis, toured PMH days after coming to office in 2021 to get “a full picture” of what was happening in the country. He described conditions at PMH as “dismal” and “bleak”.

Yet Prime Minister Davis’ government canceled the contract for PMH repairs and expansion and returned the funding.

Smaller contracts were later awarded to local companies for various repair work while the new government explored its election promises to construct new hospitals on green sites on New Providence and Grand Bahama.

Last Saturday, Davis toured PMH to view ongoing repair works. He said that he would be “fixing it”.

Disregarding his visit to PMH in September 2021, Davis surprisingly said on Wednesday that he did not know that PMH was in as bad a condition as it is.

He offered no explanation for not having dealt with the “dismal” and “bleak” conditions he found there more than a year ago, or how it was possible that he, the prime minister of The Bahamas, did not know or hear about the miserable conditions at PMH.

The site for the new hospital on New Providence has not been identified though all reports made during the past 40-plus years indicate that the present site of PMH is the most suitable for the hospital on New Providence.

Funding for the new hospital has not been obtained. According to Davis, financiers are now taking their look at the proposal.

Both Dr. Hubert Minnis and Philip Davis have held senior positions of responsibility in governments led by their respective parties since 2012 and hence were privy to plans and advice on proposed infrastructural developments.

It is unconscionable that we continue in a tradition of “two steps forward and one step back” as we struggle to fix and maintain decades-old infrastructure in urgent need of attention.

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