‘Stronger response needed to fight surge’

More restrictions would have been wise, physicians assoc. head says

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge, Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said yesterday that “it would’ve been wise” for Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to consider introducing additional restrictions for the upcoming holiday weekend.

In a highly anticipated national address on Wednesday night, Minnis announced no additional restrictions despite health officials claiming, as recently as this month, that holiday weekends tend to lead to spikes in cases.

When called for comment yesterday, Pinder-Butler said, “When you know that the likelihood for certain movements to occur when there aren’t restrictions, I think [that] should’ve been a guide for us to perhaps consider doing certain things. When we look to see that we had taken further restrictions I think last year when we were in a different place — certainly as it relates to the healthcare system.”

She noted that the healthcare system is being “stretched to capacity”.

Pinder-Butler continued, “So now into a holiday weekend and perhaps into maybe next week, it’s going to be the same thing. So what does that mean? It’s going to mean that people are still not going to be able to get the care that is needed because we still do not have any additional support at this time when we’re going into those holidays and different things where we know, we keep hearing it, we keep saying it, we keep reading about it: the likelihood for increases potentially happens during those times.

“So we thought that it would’ve been wise to consider other mitigating steps to help us during this time. But, at the moment, we’re still waiting for that to happen.”

She said a lockdown is not necessary and beaches do not need to be closed this weekend.

But, according to Pinder-Butler, “certain hours” for beach access should have been considered for the holiday.

“If it is that we’re going to have more of the COVID ambassadors policing the beaches, then that perhaps may help and the continued advice to our people to try and limit who you are engaging with even if you go on the beach and that sort of thing then that would be helpful,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we always see social media clips whenever it happens that that doesn’t happen. We always see something where there is a beach full and no one’s wearing masks. Everyone’s having a party. So I don’t know if we’ve reached the level where we’re able to fully police ourselves … I think if our healthcare system wasn’t beyond capacity, then we would have room to say, ‘Okay. Let’s see how this works out.’ But we are beyond the capacity. More cases would not be good for anybody.”

Pinder-Butler said Bahamians should all do their part to fight COVID-19.

She said the prime minister should not have to announce additional restrictions for personal responsibility to take place.

“Perhaps that is what he is implying by not saying those things,” Pinder-Butler said.

“However, if we know that we continue to see certain increases during certain instances and your healthcare institutions – public and private – are telling you, ‘We can’t make these things happen”, then you as a government and as a prime minister have to sometimes make difficult decisions, that sometimes is what we have to do as leaders.”

The Bahamas confirmed more than 1,800 cases between July 1 and July 28.

The number of hospitalization increased from 50 on July 1 to an all-time high of 106 on July 28.

Officials from both Princess Margaret Hospital and Doctors Hospital have indicated that the facilities are in crisis amid the surge in hospitalizations.

On Wednesday, Minnis announced that for the second time in less than a year, Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization, will lend assistance to improve hospital capacity by adding an additional 18 beds.

He also advised the government will hire an additional 49 medical staff members, along with 111 nurses and nursing support staff to complement the staff currently dedicated to the COVID response.

The government will spend $7.1 million on the new hires, according to Minnis.

Pinder-Butler said it was “unfortunate” that healthcare workers had to learn about the new hires during the national address rather than through engagement with government.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm to the administrators for a while now, so we really need the help like yesterday,” she said.

“So when will that happen? We would like to know who the persons are. Are we talking about the groups that we recommended bringing in? The senior house officers? The interns that were let go? Who are these physicians? So these would be the details that we would like to know and we hope that we would be engaged appropriately to know that. Certainly, it would help with the planning aspect of where these persons would be working.”

Pinder-Butler said the hiring process needs to be “fast-tracked”.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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