By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government has purchased more than a dozen ambulances to remediate the lack of emergency vehicle response throughout the Family Islands, Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez said yesterday.
Dr Gomez said his ministry has ordered “14 to 15” ambulances through the National Insurance Board (NIB), to bolster the resources and equipment throughout the Family Islands to better equip them to handle incidents of emergency, traffic accidents in particular. Dr Gomez said that North Andros in particular, the area he represents, is a place that needed “an ambulance years ago”, and that the government was working to upgrade emergency services on that island “very soon”.
Dr Gomez added that the government is seeking to supply Family Islands with not just ambulances but “all that goes along with the vehicle,” specifically persons trained in emergency medical response.
He made his statements at a press conference announcing the deployment of five physicians from the Public Hospitals Authority to several Family Islands, marking the first time that every island in the country has its own resident doctor. However, when questioned as to whether he was satisfied with the level of emergency vehicle response currently present throughout the Family Islands, Dr Gomez replied: “No, I’m not.”
“That’s why (we) requested, ordered, I think it’s 14 or 15 ambulances already,” he continued. “And they take time to come in. Even that might not be sufficient, because you know we have 30 inhabited islands and there’s some of them that you don’t need the various levels of ambulance. You don’t need the Cadillac in every island (but) you need some kind of vehicle to respond. So we’re going to get there.
“There are some priority ones, the ones particularly as I see it, I think North Andros is a place that needs an ambulance years ago, because they have such long roads and people speed. Then when the roads are not good they still speed. But there are victims of major traffic accidents and so that’s something I hope to have upgraded in North Andros very soon.
“They need an ambulance to respond and they need not just the vehicle but all that goes along with the vehicle. People who are trained as emergency response people, because that’s the key. Like I said to a funeral of a victim of a traffic accident last Saturday in Red Bays, Andros, that sometimes people who go to help with all the good intentions, they do more harm than good because they’re not trained to move a victim of a traffic collision.”
According to Dr Gomez, Dr Allen Cho has been deployed to the Berry Islands; Dr Nicole Adderley to Exuma; Dr Phyllis Darville has been deployed to San Salvador; and Dr Keysha Smith has been deployed to Bimini.
One other doctor, Dr Keith Rivers, was deployed to Marsh Harbour, Abaco, on February 9, he said.
“Today my ministry and by extension, the government of the Bahamas is yet again taking another significant step in our ongoing health systems strengthening initiative,” Dr Gomez said. “As the public is aware, improving our healthcare systems; our healthcare infrastructure; and the public health services we deliver in our clinics and hospitals is an essential first step in the phased implementation of National Health Insurance.
“One of the greatest challenges which the government has faced and continues to face in providing healthcare, is the archipelagic nature of our Commonwealth. In order to ensure access to quality primary healthcare, it is necessary to staff our national network of public health clinics with sufficient doctors, nurses and allied-health personnel.”
After the announcement, Dr Darville told The Tribune that she looks forward to serving as San Salvador’s first resident doctor.
“I feel grateful for the opportunity to do that, to provide service for a Family Island,” she said. “I understand the need for the people to get that good healthcare, and I hope that I can accomplish my goals.”
Dr Smith, also serving as Bimini’s first resident doctor, said she plans to establish a “good primary care practice” on the island.
“A lot of people on the Family Islands don’t have the advantage and are not able to always come to Nassau or go to the US to get their annual screenings,” she said. “So by having me as a family medicine trained physician on the island, I can offer these services to the people on the island, screen them, give them proper healthcare to keep them healthy overall.”