Reinvigorating and transforming health care throughout the country is the new Minister of Health’s primary focus.
Dr. Michael Darville, who was given the portfolio on Monday (September 20) when he was sworn in as the new minister under the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration, travelled to Grand Bahama on Wednesday, September 22, to tour public health care facilities on the island.
“The first thing that we want to do is improve our health care delivery systems. We have COVID cases that are causing our hospitals to work beyond capacity. A lot of other essential medical services are being neglected because we need to deal with the pandemic. I need to fix that immediately, to ensure that we have outcomes and reduce the cases of morbidity and mortality that we are seeing in the northern region as a result of people suffering from chronic non-communicable diseases,” said the health minister.
“Actually, we are now in a situation whereby they cannot access the services. If they cannot access the services, they cannot have access to medical supplies or to medical care and we will find ourselves in a situation where our medical outcomes are not as we would want them to be.”
Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount.
“Health officials are the ones who have been carrying us for the last year and a half, possibly two years. They are exhausted, some of them are underpaid, some of them have not been paid. Some of them have been neglected; some of their voices are not being heard and we have to fix it. We are in this together. Our healthcare workers and the community must come together to ensure that all of us are on one accord. When we speak about infectious diseases, there are public health measures that must be adhered to. These public health measures include wearing your masks and not gathering in large places.
“You would realize that one of the first things we did was to remove the curfew until 12:00 a.m. A lot of people have criticized that move, but we feel confident that we must be able to juggle the economy and the delivery of health care.,” said Dr. Darville.
“Once again, we are pleading with the general public; please follow the public health measures that we put in place. I will definitely be working with the Ministry of National Security to ensure that our protocols that are in place, are policed. It is absolutely necessary.
“If we are going to live with this virus, which is going to be with us for a while, we have to discipline ourselves because we must open our economy and we must make sure that we protect ourselves from COVID,” he added.
Public health measures will be enforced more aggressively under this administration, said the minister.
In terms of offering free COVID testing, as Prime Minister Philip Davis, Minister of Finance promised on the campaign trail, Dr. Daville shared that is still the intention of his ministry.
Free COVID testing will be implemented as soon as possible, according to him.
“We have been preaching about testing, testing, testing. There is a scientific measure behind our protocols. The virus isn’t visible and in order to find it, we have to test for it. And so, we are going to be implementing more rapid testing in our protocols while we will still use the PCR diagnostic test to confirm COVID. We are now communicating with the experts, we are communicating with vendors and we are also, all around the country, getting feedback on how we should implement it.
“We understand that one of the challenges with implementing free testing is to be able to monitor exactly what is going on. And so, there is a piece of sophisticated software that needs to be implemented in order to be effective in the testing. But we will definitely be implementing rapid testing as a screening tool, not so much as a diagnostic tool because the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has already confirmed that the PCR is diagnostic, whereas the rapid test is not fully diagnostic, but is a perfect tool,” he explained.
“Under the Biden administration (President of the U.S. Joe Biden), they are looking at rapid testing as a means to trace the virus, find out where it is to be able to isolate and quarantine while the diagnostic PCR tests are in place.
“This is my second day in office and we are still moving around the country but it is something that we want to do as soon as we can possibly implement it, effectively,” concluded the Minister of Health.