Despite the challenges plaguing Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said PMH still delivers a high standard of care and he remains confident enough in the hospital to undergo surgery there.
“PMH has always had challenges,” said Minnis, who spoke to reporters at Atlantis Resort on Tuesday night. “It is nothing new. However, with the limited resources that they have, they still deliver the best quality healthcare you can find.
“[When] I had my surgical procedure done, I went to PMH because I have… confidence in the institution and the physicians.
“Many people don’t [and] they run to the U.S., but I am convinced that we have some of the most skilled, qualified physicians and we offer the best possible care under the circumstances that we have.
“We have limited resources. We have limited money. But in spite of that, you look at our record and you look at other records throughout the world. We have an excellent healthcare record.”
Many of the challenges facing the healthcare system in The Bahamas have been highlighted in recent weeks with physicians staging two recent demonstrations, demanding, among other things, an improvement in hospital facilities, equipment and working conditions.
The crisis in the dialysis unit at PMH was also in the headlines this week.
In a Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) memorandum dated July 19, 2018, Hospital Administrator Mary Lightbourne-Walker noted that there are 20 treatment stations within the dialysis unit and 22 dialysis machines.
She said the unit cares for 175 chronic patients who receive two hours and 30 minutes of treatment as opposed to the optimal treatment of three hours and 30 minutes.
She said the patients’ clinical condition will improve when they receive optimal treatment that is “not attainable with the current patient demand”.
A decline of trained nurses and stress and fatigue among staff were also issues.
She also said due to “excessive use and demand” the dialysis machines are “plagued with operational failures constantly”.
In her memorandum, Lightbourne-Walker concluded that as The Bahamas moves towards universal healthcare, “it is incumbent upon us, as a system, to seek to bring equity, reliability, accuracy, quality and access to all modalities of care”.
She recommended that in the short term, the PHA immediately move to outsource 95 patients via contractual agreements with five private entities and reintroduce peritoneal dialysis care.
As it relates to National Health Insurance (NHI), Minnis said the government was still reworking the program.
“They are still working and as soon as we come to some other conclusion to move forward we will report to the nation,” he said.
Asked if the catastrophic care portion of the scheme, which the Minnis administration prioritized, has been finalized, the prime minister said the government is also reviewing that.
“We are looking at that,” he said. “We are looking at catastrophic [care]. We are looking at National Health Insurance and primary care.”
Minnis indicated that a focus on primary healthcare will help reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the country.
The government was expected to introduce the first phase of the Catastrophic Care Insurance Plan under NHI this fiscal year.
It budgeted $20 million for NHI in the 2018/2019 fiscal year and $40 million in the 2017/2018 fiscal year.
The Christie administration introduced the enrollment and primary care phase of NHI on May 1, 2017.
It did so with no public insurer in place and no means of funding the program.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands has pledged to scale back and revamp the program in partnership with stakeholders