Safeguarding the health of our nation

Dear Editor,

The nations of the world in general and The Bahamas watch as this viral pandemic spreads and adversely impacts their lives and economies.

Preservation of life and health are the foremost global challenges for governments and individuals.

Secondly, restoration of economies that are adversely impacted will remain a major challenge for all countries in the coming years.

Here in The Bahamas, the challenges are now evident as the country lives under a curfew; hotels, businesses and schools are shuttered; unemployment increases exponentially; and families are under extreme stress due to the economic conditions.

Bahamians are also terrified for their health and safety prospects as eight cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on New Providence and one on Grand Bahama.

This number likely represents an undercount of the prevalence of the virus in The Bahamas. It is anticipated that as increased screening and contact tracing are conducted, the number of infected individuals will escalate.

Prevention will require both proactive and reactive measures of residents and the government of The Bahamas as more is learned about the behavior of the new virus.

Recommended proactive measures for the public have been clearly announced via media and posters and include hand washing frequently for 20 seconds, coughing and sneezing into the crease of the elbow, wiping down counter surfaces, door handles and light switches regularly with sanitizers and social distancing measures.

Recommended proactive measures for the government include implementing tax relief measures for the public; mobilizing grant monies and pledges from reliable sources including foreign governments and the private sector to help stabilize the economy; acquiring reliable testing equipment, including supply chain items such as nasopharyngeal swab kits for transport to laboratory in Nassau; acquiring supplies of personal protective equipment for frontline workers, including nurses, doctors and transport workers; adequate numbers of respirators/ventilators for the hospitals and isolation facilities for those in need of intensive care.

It is apparent that some of these measures are being addressed by the Ministry of Health, however, with limited success.

The proposal to mobilize the West End clinic on Grand Bahama for isolation and treatment of infected ill persons has been met with passionate protests by residents of that community, with justification.

The government ought to locate such a facility at the site of the destroyed University of The Bahamas campus on Queen’s Highway, which has a large paved area and buildings with upper level rooms if needed.

The erection of a field hospital at that site would provide a facility 10 miles from the Freeport downtown area and away from established settlements on Grand Bahama, hence curtailing community spread of the virus.

Such a facility would also provide care for individuals from the northern Bahamas, including Grand Bahama, Abaco and Bimini who may require intensive care hospitalization.

The government must be proactive and reactive in this crisis to safeguard the health of our nation.

Government must seek to build the confidence and cooperation of the populace for success as this pandemic is far from over.

May God continue to protect and bless our beloved Bahamaland.

Dr. Marcus Bethel, MD,

former Minister of Health


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