Worries that COVID-19 could worsen health care staff shortages

Former Bahamas Doctors Union President Dr. Mucomba Millar is worried about a shortage of health care workers in The Bahamas, especially after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed on Wednesday that 50 health care workers were taken out of the system after being exposed to COVID-19.

“We do have a limited [number] of physicians,” Millar said.

“For every patient that comes through, you have a subsequent set of physicians and nurses — health care providers — that are going to be out of the system and are going to be quarantined, which is as it should be because this disease has asymptomatic carriers.

“And we are already dealing with patients that are already ill. And I think it’s pretty dangerous for a physician who has been exposed to COVID-19, and we don’t know whether they are going to develop the disease or if they are an asymptomatic carrier, to still be in the workforce.”

Millar noted that some Family Islands could be especially challenged by this.

“Even more so, we live in an archipelago of islands and quite a few areas are serviced by one or two physicians,” he said.

“So, if those physicians are exposed, you don’t have coverage.

“And then you also have cases like the Rand (in Freeport), which has been stretched for years.”

Millar said the issue could result in burnout of unexposed health care workers, and noted that burnout and fatigue increase the chances of mistakes.

Minnis said the quarantined health care workers were exposed to COVID-19 without realizing that their patients had COVID-19.

He asked all health officials to treat all patients as if they have the virus.

There are now 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

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