New health minister after budget debate
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday deflected questions over the circumstances that led to the resignation of former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
Sands resigned last month after revelations surfaced that he allowed six Americans to disembark a plane in New Providence – with a donation of 2,500 test swabs – despite the country’s border closure.
In a national address to the country, the prime minister announced that Sands had breached protocol.
Sands tendered his resignation the next day, noting that his continued presence on the Cabinet may serve as a “distraction” from the government’s effort to manage the spread of the virus in the country.
The Ministry of Health press conference staged yesterday was the first time the prime minister has fielded questions from the media since April 19.
The prime minister has been providing weekly updates via live televised national addresses.
Minnis was asked to explain why he decided to accept the minister’s resignation in the middle of a global health crisis; what was the protocol breached; and why no other officials involved were held accountable.
“Dr Duane Sands submitted his letter of resignation publicly, of which you’d be very much aware,” Minnis said.
“This matter has been discussed and debated extensively in the public domain, and at this point in time, we are more concerned with dealing with the COVID pandemic, getting our economy running again, ensuring that people get their jobs back, ensuring that people have food on their table and we increase our employment status that we see today.
“I do wish him well in his private sector role.”
Subsequent revelations indicated that Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar approved the arrival of the aircraft that brought the supplies and its passengers to the country.
Immigration Director Clarence Russell also reportedly provided the Department of Immigration’s approval for the passengers.
D’Aguilar has insisted that he will not resign over his involvement in the issue also indicating that the “enough has been said about this”, it’s been ventilated”, and “…I’ve moved on. I think we should all do the same”.
Yesterday, Minnis was asked to identify the protocol breached by Sands.
“Allow me to repeat, that matter was discussed ad infinitum in the press, so that matter is finished,” he said.
“We are moving on trying to get our economy running, trying to deal with this pandemic, get people out, functioning, working, and have food for their family and themselves. That is our priority today.”
Minnis advised that he is still the acting minister of health and remain in the position until at least after the budget.
“I think it would be unfair for me to name a new minster at this particular time and he or she be placed in the position where they will have to present the health budget to the nation,” he said.
“I think it will be appropriate that at this particular time if I deliver the health budget to the nation after which I will then appoint a new minister of health.”