Prime Minister Philip Davis said on Saturday Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) is in “crisis” and pledged that his administration will do all it can to fix it.
Davis spoke on the conditions at PMH following a tour of the facility where hospital officials showed him several wards that are currently undergoing renovations.
Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) Managing Director Aubynette Rolle, who accompanied Davis, agreed.
“It’s a crisis,” Rolle said.
“It’s at a point where we need action and that is exactly what we are doing now.
“A few of the things that we are dealing with now, in terms of infrastructure, have been there for a while but we failed to move forward and have them done.
“But it’s one level of pandemic after the other. Right now, you see it happening with another level of pandemic, which is the sick population.”
Due to the renovations, the hospital lost 51 beds and is currently, via an agreement, forwarding stabilized patients to Doctors Hospital West.
Following the tour, Davis said it was “heart-wrenching” to see the state of the facility.
“But, we will fix it,” he pledged. “We are fixing it.”
He said, “What we see here are not challenges but, truly, crises. I indicated then that we have a health crisis.
“A part of that crisis was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, which exposed the infrastructural challenges we have that required immediate attention.”
The tour ended in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department where tight corridors were filled with patients on gurneys or waiting in chairs.
Davis, who was accompanied by Rolle, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville, and PMH Hospital Administrator Mary Walker, among others, stopped to speak with patients.
The crowded pathways could barely accommodate the full entourage.
One man, who was on a gurney in the hallway with wounds to his legs, held his head. A doctor approached him and asked, “How are you? How did you get these? Are these from an accident?”
The man whispered, “Yes.”
Other patients hid their faces or stared at the shuffling officials.
Some slept. One man had a blanket covering him as he snoozed on a gurney.
As officials moved through the old A&E, they turned a corner into the Critical Care Block and it appeared as if the tour had moved into another facility.
One woman, who saw the prime minister, began praying. She stood near the wall, lifted her hand up and closed her eyes.
At the entrance of the Critical Care Block, there were more people waiting, some were patients getting medical attention.
Darville said The Bahamas is experiencing a second pandemic.
“… Many individuals who suffer from chronic non-communicable diseases are now showing up at our tertiary facility,” he said.
“We are working very diligently to solve that problem while we are still in tight spaces and eventually these hiccups that we are currently experiencing in the healthcare system will be resolved and we will be able to function more effectively in tertiary as well as primary healthcare.”
As of Saturday, PMH had around 356 patients, Rolle said.
“Not all of those patients [are] in physical beds on the ward, but really being in that virtual space,” she said.
“That is where the levels of concern are because that is really in the corridor, in emergency rooms, in the chapels, sitting in chairs because that is what we are seeing.
“Doctors Hospital is taking our patients under our contractual agreement, however, they have to be more stabilized patients.
“As I expressed previously, what we are now seeing is unstable patients that really have to remain here for closer observation.”
Dr. Caroline Burnett-Garraway, PMH medical chief of staff, said the hospital is seeing increases in diabetic cases, hypertensive emergencies, heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia in elderly people.
“And of course, we have our trauma patients, so the assaults, the gunshot wounds that continue to challenge us from New Providence and the Family Islands,” she said.
There is also an increase in new COVID cases, Burnett-Garraway added.
“So, our COVID unit is actually full right now,” she said.
Elective surgeries remain on hold, she noted, because of the bed shortage.
“So, neurological surgery, and eye surgery is being offered, but at a limited amount,” she said.
“So, definitely, we are dealing with all of the emergencies that are coming in.
“We don’t turn them away. We see everyone. We try and stabilize the emergencies and we have to try and rebook them and give them a new date.”
Work is happening on a set of modular units on the grounds of the hospital, the basement of the Eye Ward, Male Medical II, Female Surgical I and A&E.
Darville said he is hopeful that renovations will be completed in another five weeks.
He said renovations are also occurring at Rand Memorial Hospital on Grand Bahama and at clinics throughout the country.
The prime minister’s tour of PMH came just over a week after Kenise Darville, a mother of three, died at the facility after broadcasting live on Facebook that she was being severely neglected by healthcare workers there.