NASSAU, BAHAMAS – In an effort to quickly transport a friend to the airport who had suffered a seizure, Denice Bethel, a resident of Cat Island had no other choice but to place a mattress on the bed of her truck to transport her friend to the island’s airport in the Bight, where they waited on an air ambulance.
It was a move that Bethel still laments, so she posted a video on social media to show others how difficult it is for Cat Islanders to receive emergency medical care on the island.
“This is how we have to transport a patient who is very sick and very ill to the airport to get an air ambulance,” Bethel said in the video which made the rounds on social media earlier this week.
Now in the capital to accompany her friend who was hospitalized, Bethel told Eyewitness News Online from the parking lot of the Princess Margaret Hospital that Cat Island needs help when it comes to the level of health services that are presently being offered.
“If only a vehicle to take sick and dying persons to the hospital and where they need to go,” Bethel said. “I you’ll don’t wake up Cat Island and realize what you’ll need and what we need, we’re going to have our families dying right on our hands because of the inefficient and poor service of the government.”
Bethel said residents have begun pooling funds to purchase some much-needed medical tools, but the cost outweighs the available funds that they have gathered.
The Cat Island resident said it’s now time for the government to step in.
“I’m calling on the MP, Philip Brave Davis [and] I’m calling on Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. Please lend an ear to humans. It reaches my house today and I have to speak up.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with Eyewitness News on Wednesday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands revealed that Philip Davis, the Member of Parliament for Cat Island had recently donated an ambulance to the island.
“We are now reviewing the vehicle because the ministry of health would have to accept the vehicle and obviously maintain the vehicle to determine its road worthiness, etcetera. Whenever these donations are made, the ministry has to look at the vehicle, look at the mileage, look at the brakes, look at the transmission [and] look at the body to determine whether we are going to accept the donation or not.”
Dr. Sands added that while the ministry would love to provide the family islands with all the medical resources needed, it’s a luxury the government just cannot afford right now.
“Many communities around the Bahamas have been requesting ambulances. Certainly, while we would like to populate each of the communities or as many of the communities with ambulances, understand that that is a much taller order than you could imagine, because ambulances don’t drive themselves, you need to have trained Emergency Medical Technicians.
“Three ambulances cost about $600,000, so imagine trying to purchase an ambulance for five or six communities in Andros, in Eleuthera; four or five communities in Exuma and then you add to that full time emergency medical technicians, training, continuing education, etcetera.
“So luckily, Cat Island will see some relief very soon. I wish I could say the same thing for every single community in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, but that would be dishonest and disingenuous.”
Dr. Sands said as his ministry improves, more will be done for other islands.
“As we build our healthcare system, yes, we have to improve the quality of pre-hospital care, but we can’t do it immediately. This is something we have to aspire to [and that ] we have to plan for.”
In his contribution to the 2019/2020 Budget Debate, Dr. Sands said the budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is 9 million dollars. He said the budget would allow the government to provide Exuma, Abaco and Long Island with ambulances this fiscal year.