Family Islands cannot manage critically ill patients

Family Islands cannot manage critically ill patients
Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Health minister Dr Duane Sands yesterday underscored the lack of resources on Family Islands to manage critically ill patients following a double traffic fatality in Abaco.

Sands insisted the country faced this unfortunate challenge long before the advent of Hurricane Dorian, which laid waste to portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

He was responding to claims from a frustrated humanitarian worker, who lashed out at the government, the National Emergency Management Agency, and the Ministry of Health over perceived failures in storm management and response.

Burke Bryant, who was among first responders to the Abaco crash, claims the island only has one doctor, adding it took nearly three hours to get a critically injured man airlifted to Nassau.

Sands said there are five doctors in the Abacos, with three stationed in Marsh Harbour.

“This was an horrific accident and it’s a real tragedy,” Sands told Eyewitness News Online yesterday.

“You see the photos of the wreckage, it speaks to a real challenge with adhering to basic road safety.

Superintendent Craig Stubbs confirmed two men died, and another man was critically injured following a head-on collision shortly after 7 a.m.

“We would have immediately on hearing of this deployed one of the three physicians posted on Abaco,” Sands said.

“Given the severity of the injuries, there is a limited capacity to manage critically ill patients on Abaco.

“Whether there was devastation from the storm or not devastation from the storm, Abaco doesn’t have the ability to provide services for critically ill patients, they have to be airlifted out.”

Sands confirmed the presence of one physician from the Department of Public Health, and representatives from NGOs Americares, Heart to Heart, and Samaritan’s Purse.

“We are attempting to restore health services to the pre-Dorian levels, but there is certainly not the level where a critically ill patient is going to be able to be managed in Abaco. This is a very unfortunate situation but I think it speaks more to the severity of the event, than it does to the current complement of staff.”

Sands further explained the level of need for medical services was greater in Grand Bahama, where he said an estimated 50,000 people remain on the island.

“On Abaco, there may be 12-13,000, if that many people on Abaco, so it’s not the same, the need is not the same.

“I think it’s very important to point out that a critically ill patient anywhere in the family of islands finds him or herself requiring evacuation.

He added: “That’s the way it was prior to Dorian and that’s the way it is now. This is very unfortunate, I would wish that this accident could have been avoided but the issue of now suggesting that the fatality is a consequence of staffing is a bit of a stretch.”