Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that flooding, as a result of Hurricane Dorian, poses serious public health concerns, especially in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, where a Haitian shantytown known as The Mudd flooded extensively.
“We have to assume that all of the ground water, all of the community water, is contaminated,” he said.
“That is the working assumption. Now, contaminated from what? From open latrines, from decaying animals, from whatever intrusion there has been into the water supply.
“From a public health point of view, now that the wind and the rain and the surge has receded, we are incredibly concerned about the next phase, which is the risk of diarrheal diseases, the risk of rodents, the risk of mosquitoes, lack of access to proper medical care.
“So, the first medical teams are moving into Abaco to give relief to the team that was on the ground, but most importantly to ensure that we are taking time-tested public health strategies to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.”
Dorian laid ruin to Abaco and Grand Bahama, making landfall on Elbow Cay with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (mph) and gusts over 220 mph. The wind speed made Dorian the second strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic.
Sands said that the aftermath of the storm is also placing a strain on the public health system that was already worn thin prior to the storm.
The Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) announced on Tuesday that 24 people from Abaco were transported to the Emergency Department at Princess Margaret Hospital on New Providence. Eleven of them were admitted to hospital, but two have since died of their injuries.
The U.S. Embassy said that as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday, 61 people had been evacuated, with three of them having come from Grand Bahama.
Sands added that they are expecting an influx of patients from Grand Bahama as well, given issues at the hospital there, which experienced flooding during the storm.
“Well, you know, understand that Princess Margaret Hospital has been challenged with capacity even before the storm,” he said.
“Now we have an influx of patients from Abaco and, given the challenges with the Rand Memorial Hospital, we expect additional patients from the Rand.
“We have been engaged in discussions about reasonable decompression of the primary acute care facility in the country. This is a stressful time, not just for the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama, but for the people of the country, because there has been an impact, albeit of a lesser magnitude, on everybody.
“The nurses and doctors that traveled to Abaco and will travel to Grand Bahama come from the supply of doctors who would ordinarily be providing services in New Providence. That then means that New Providence is operating one man or two man down, using a sports analogy. So you are somewhat handicapped in the ordinary delivery of services in New Providence as you make obligatory contributions to the healthcare services in these badly affected islands.
“So, as we look to the medium-term and the longer term, we’re going to have to rely on assistance from international partners, and we may have to modify the level of service that people receive.
“We anticipate that it’s going to create some problems and we urge the public to be extremely patient and understanding.”
Sands added, “We’re doing the best we can given the circumstances.”