National healthcare now

Dear Editor,

From the very early days of the late great and deeply lamented Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, The Bahamas has been debating and talking about a national health care system, ad nauseum. We have talked and talked this critical subject almost to death. Tens of thousands of Bahamians have died and many more are dying on a daily basis while we have this totally discourse as to whether or not we actually need and are able to afford this vital component in national development. The time for bogus debate and talk have come to an end.

While the bulk of our population has been referred to as ‘young’ , the debilitating and serious effects of the ability of the average ‘older ‘ Bahamian to access dental, vision and cardiovascular care, on a timely basis, is costing individuals their very lives and the nation, at large, a massive degree of loss of productivity and sends scores of Bahamians to a later life of neglect, punishment and national non-productivity . It seems as if we have unilaterally consigned our ‘older’ people to the proverbial bone yards.

Good eyesight and vision are critical to all, at some point in our lives. If you are unable to see or to see properly you will not be able to perform on your job or in your chosen profession. Eye examinations could cost in excess of hundreds of dollars. If you may need glasses and lens that could be another few hundreds of dollars.

Many Bahamians, diet-wise and genetically start to ‘lose’ vision in one or both eyes. Many contract cataracts or total blindness which, some say, is preventable . Appointments at the government operated eye clinic up at Soldier Road are next to impossible and even when they are set, they are subject to ad hoc cancellations, even if you would have travelled to New Providence from a Family Island, with impunity. Why is it that in this day and age, Bahamians are still obliged to travel to New Providence for what should be minor tests and procedures?

Dental care is yet another long neglected health component for the average Bahamian. Many Bahamians, young and old would have suffered tooth/teeth losses due to any number of reasons and may need examinations, treatment and replacement either by implants or affordable dentures. Dental procedures are exorbitantly, in my view by personal experience, off the dental and economic charts. As a result you would see thousands of Bahamians with no teeth, a missing tooth or two and gum diseases. Is it any wonder that many Bahamians ‘welcomed’ the mask mandate and now that it has been lifted, they are still not widely smiling?

Non-hereditary or communicable medical issues like high blood pressure and hypertension are literally, again, killing thousands of otherwise apparently healthy Bahamians. Heart and mental issues are yet more things that are contributing to the early demise, I submit, of tens of thousands of ordinary Bahamians.

While I fully support the recently passed Mental Health Act, that is not enough. Being ‘crazy’ has long been a societal stigma and it will not go away simply because of a revamped Mental Health Act and unspecified declarations as to the objectives of that bill.

The intentions are, no doubt good ones, but what will really be achieved by plastering a ‘new’ label on ‘crazy’? Nothing was said, definitively about reclassifying ‘crazy’. By what yardstick do we label someone as ‘crazy’ when it would appear that a gang of Bahamians may well, in fact, have mental issues?

Private health insurance is beyond the reach of most Bahamians, especially sine COVID and a contraction of the national economy . Many policies and contracts of insurance would have lapsed or been cancelled due to lack of payment. Insurance companies, without, I am sure, any malicious intent, would have been ‘happy’ to see thousands of such contracts and/policies declared ‘ lapsed; but that is a pure business outcome.

Heart surgery and most other organ transplants are beyond the economic reach of numerous Bahamians. This could and must have lead to the untimely deaths of huge numbers of Bahamians. We are all able to recall some of the first heart transplants pioneered by a South African doctor. His name escapes me but even then, the costs were prohibitive. Little has changed, fee and cost wise since then.

Some of you will recall a few years ago, when our beloved (to some) then leader of the Opposition Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, MP, KC (PLP-Cat Island) contracted COVID. He had the means to be placed in a medical bubble and evacuated to the USA where he was able to utilize updated medical facilities and treatment. He, thanks be to The Lord Jesus Christ, survived and went on to become prime minister of this wonderful nation. Alas, scores more, who could not afford the same as the now PM, have died and are wherever they might find themselves today.

One may say or even think whatever they may like about the late great and deeply lamented Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling but none is able to deny that he was a visionary leader. Brave, with all due respect, is no Pindling, but he has the innate ability to emulate and possibly exceed his societal and economic successes with the soonest implementation of two critical things: a National Health Care Scheme and a National Youth Service…..plain and simple. He can bite the proverbial bullet now or reap the unwanted and half ripe fruits later on in the season. To God then, in all things, with your leave, Editor, be the glory.


— Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

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