Wells unaware of Family Island testing challenges, says claims will be investigated

Wells unaware of Family Island testing challenges, says claims will be investigated
Minister of Health Renward Wells

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Renward Wells said yesterday that while he understands follow-up testing of travelers is occurring on all islands of The Bahamas, if and where there have been deficiencies they will be investigated and corrected.

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar recently told The Nassau Guardian there were instances on remote islands such as Long Island, Cat Island, San Salvador and MICAL where tests were not being performed.

When prompted on the matter outside the House of Assembly, Wells said: “I am not aware that is the circumstance. I will have to look into that.

“I understand the rapid antigen test is deployed in-country and I would have spoken to this issue this morning and will speak to it a little bit more on this coming Friday when the Ministry of Health has a press conference.”

According to D’Aguilar, the lack of private providers on remote islands to perform the tests has contributed to the problem. He noted that on islands where there is no local doctor or clinic, public health clinics have to provide the antigen test, which is a “little more difficult to roll out”.

Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP Philip Brave Davis during debate in the House of Assembly yesterday also asserted that some of the Family Islands in his constituencies do not have access to adequate COVID testing.

Pressed on whether follow-up testing is being performed on all islands, Wells said: “As far as I am aware at this point, the tests are being conducted on the Family Islands.

“Where there is no private facility that is doing the test, the tests are being done by the government clinics.

“That is what is the government’s protocol [is] and I believe some of this would have been spoken to in the emergency orders.”

However, the health minister said if it is learned or determined that there have been instances of a lapse in follow-up testing, the situation will be corrected immediately.

“We don’t run away from things,” Wells continued.

“Wherever there are deficiencies, if it is made [known] to us, we deal with it right away.

“We’ll see to it that the tests are there if there are places where it is not, to ensure that the government’s policy and program to keep control of the gains that we have gotten in regards to testing, in regards to the numbers being down [is maintained].”

The new travel regime requiring follow-up testing on day five of entry into The Bahamas was introduced a month ago.

Anyone who travels to The Bahamas must obtain a negative RT-PCR test within five days of travel, submit to a rapid antigen test on day five, and complete health surveys daily which provide for the self-reporting of symptoms.

The Bahamas recorded two cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest number of cases in a single day since the onset of the second wave of the virus in early July.

Yesterday, Wells said the government will not do anything that puts its efforts and the efforts of the hardworking healthcare professionals to flatten the curve and bring the number of cases down in a negative direction.

Turnaround

Amid concerns in some quarters about the turnaround time for PCR COVID-19 testing in the Family Islands, Wells said there was no equipment to process tests in those communities and the medical professionals have to freeze and to send samples to New Providence for examination.

He said the Ministry of Health continues efforts to ensure there is no “massive lag time”.

“We seek to have the results come back as quickly as humanely possible so that we can know what the status of the individual is, so that surveillance and contact tracing and all of the other apparatus of health can be engaged to ensure that person is not spreading the virus if they’re positive.”