Rehabilitative healthcare service understaffed

Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands.

Reports compiled by the health care sector suggest that The Bahamas is in dire need of additional occupational therapists as there are only nine in the country, according to the nation’s top health official.

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands confirmed Thursday during the launch of Occupational Therapy Month at Sandilands Rehabilitation Center, that the government is committed to direct special attention and resources to assist with strengthening occupational therapy.

Dr. Sands explained that occupational therapists often work with people who are challenged with mental health problems, disabilities, injuries or impairment. He also said, addressing the shortfall of trained and qualified occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants, requires greater emphasis on health development.

“In the medium to long-term, we need to find the means to consistently attract persons to this profession,” said Dr. Sands.

“This is not only a national challenge, but a global one. There is no doubt that in the short term, we will have to consider the allocation of resources or the restructuring of services to ensure that the needs of patients are met. Bottom line, we can no longer opt out of addressing this critical need.”

Dr. Sands explained that as a cardiothoracic surgeon, he has frequently seen how a person’s life can be interrupted by sudden illness or a catastrophic injury, which even after all skilled medical interventions are complete, continues to affect an individual’s overall performance in daily activities.

“Occupational therapy can make a difference in these circumstances, helping restore a measure of independence, wholeness and quality of life,” he said.

“An individual’s overall health and well-being is of paramount importance to his or her positive contributions to society; and the government of The Bahamas, through my ministry, is mandated to ensure the protection, promotion of health to all people by providing access to comprehensive, preventive, quality health care and by extension rehabilitative care.”

Dr. Sands commended occupational therapists for their unwavering support and service they continue to give patients, despite the challenges they face.

“Even with these constrained numbers, occupational therapists are providing unselfish and dedicated health care services in our public institutions, working with patients to achieve optimum functionality and improved quality of life.”

The Health Minister also urged all occupational therapists to pursue, as much as possible, opportunities for continued education and professional development in order to stay on the leading edge of their profession.

“Likewise, I encourage our public hospital institutions to embrace opportunities for advanced training for occupational therapy staff and indeed for all of the allied health professions to ensure that we are consistently improving our standards of care.

“To our occupational therapists, I charge you as champions of your profession as you continue to celebrate this month, to inform and bring greater awareness of your profession to audiences across our country.”