Bahamas the

PS Brown of GB’s office of Prime Minister ailing

Pictured from left are Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime (OPM), Senator J. Kwasi Thompson; Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Iram Lewis and Permanent Secretary in the OPM, Harcourt Brown. (PHOTOS: TFN FILES)

A permanent secretary is ailing and a number of government offices in Grand Bahama have been cleaned and sanitized, due to a COVID-19 concern.

It was confirmed on Thursday by Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis, that Permanent Secretary Harcourt Brown of the Grand Bahama Office of the

Prime Minister was indeed airlifted out of the island over the weekend with health concerns.

“Yes, he was flown out over the weekend, not doing well. But, my latest information is that he was feeling better,” Lewis acknowledged when contacted by The Freeport News.

Subsequently, according to information reaching this daily, the floors on which the Office of the Prime Minister, and ZNS Broadcasting Station operate in the Harold DeGregory Building, downtown Freeport, have been cleaned and sanitized.

However, it could not be determined whether Minister of State, Senator Kwasi Thompson, or any of the others who work closely with PS Brown have been tested for COVID-19, or, have opted for isolation. Senator Thompson could not be reached for a comment.

A number of government offices throughout the country, inclusive of Grand Bahama, have been closed due to COVID-19 deep cleaning and sanitization procedures.

Entities such as the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Ministry of Education, The Bahamas Water and Sewage Corporation, as well as The Office of the Prime Minister and other government agencies housed in the Cecil Wallace Whitfield Building in New Providence, have all been closed to undertake such cleaning and sanitation to avoid the possible spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Here on the island of Grand Bahama, it has been confirmed that the National Insurance Board (NIB) and others have also followed the same procedure, as their counterparts in the capital.

In a statement released by the National Insurance Board on August 11, regarding their office closures it was announced that both NIB headquarters in New Providence and Grand Bahama would be closed to carry out COVID- 19 sanitization.

“The limited staff operations at these locations will resume as soon as possible.”

The statement went on to read as follows: “Benefit cheques for Grand Bahama customers will be issued from the C. A. Smith Complex beginning on Friday, August 14, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.”

In response to expressed concerns by residents and recent criticisms made by the Official Opposition, the Progressive LiberalParty (PLP) regarding the government’s COVID-19 strategy on the northern island of Grand Bahama, on Wednesday, August 12, the Grand Bahama Office of the Prime Minister released a statement.

Below is the statement in its entirety.

“The Office of the Prime Minister Grand Bahama wishes to address criticism of the COVID-19 response on the island. Residents of Grand Bahama and the entire Bahamas are reminded and reassured that the government is working aggressively in this ongoing fight that we all have a stake in. We are aware of the public’s concerns and fears, which should not be politized. We are all at risk and we are all in this fight together. Ultimately, how each individual member of our community behaves is critical to determining the country's outcome.

“The situation in Grand Bahama, as we have been saying for some time, is very serious. It cannot be understated that our numbers are not yet at an acceptable level and the public must take the health warnings and restrictions seriously. If we in Grand Bahama are to overcome this virus we must come together in unity, supporting each other, especially our health officials.

“The public should also be reminded that International guidelines, policies and protocols have been implemented and continue to be modified as new information becomes available regarding this rapidly evolving virus.

“Grand Bahama has been particularly challenged. Unprecedented is an understatement when describing the plethora of challenges we have experienced. Our island was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, resulting in more damage to an already weakened, ageing structure (Rand Memorial Hospital). Construction workers are working feverishly to the complete rebuilding of the hospital. The Prime Minister has announced that $21 million has been allocated for the Rand Memorial Hospital.

“Presently, a new Healing Garden / New corridor, a New Roof, a new Foyer, new Pharmacy & Admissions, new Paediatrics Ward, new Medical and new Surgical Block are being constructed. We expect work to be completed sometime in September.

“Contrary to critics, construction of a new Covid19 Center on property was started several months ago and should be ready for occupants in a few weeks.

“While this will not be a new hospital it most certainly will be a new Rand Memorial Hospital. The public is further advised of the following:

· The Grand Bahama Health Services COVID-19 Task Force follows the national protocols for testing and contact tracing that are based on international guidelines.

· Testing in Grand Bahama is systematic, targeting specific groups (symptomatic and asymptomatic) utilizing expanded testing.

· The government quarantine site is being utilized to quarantine/isolate all persons who do not meet the criteria for home quarantine/ isolation. During the recent tropical storm Isaias, persons at risk for COVID-19 were cared for at the Government facility.

· The Cancer Association has been utilized for COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the second wave. The center has six negative pressure rooms that can accommodate 6-12 patients and an additional 10 beds. Currently, only COVID-19 patients or persons-under- investigation are housed there. Clinical inpatient services are managed at two off-site locations.

 “The public is assured that the Government of The Bahamas is working diligently with relative agencies to address all COVID-related challenges. Our nation’s response ought not be politicized, as it is vital that we stand united against this giant foe. The Prime Minister has consistently offered an olive branch to the Official Opposition, which recently had the opportunity to meet with and ask any questions to the top medical officials. However, many of the issues raised in their public statement where not raised to the health officials.

 “Our intent is to do the best with what resources we have and to identify solutions for all deficiencies encountered. The pandemic is our collective problem and our collective responsibility. We take this opportunity to commend the Grand Bahama COVID-19 Task Force and all the frontline doctors and nurses who are working above and beyond to keep our island safe.

 “The Government of The Bahamas continues to move swiftly and aggressively as the situation develops globally and here at home. We ask the public to continue to follow protocols issued by health officials to help minimize the spread of COVID-19:

· Stay at home unless absolutely necessary to go out.

· Wear masks when you leave your home.

· Wash and sanitize hands thoroughly and often.

· Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

· Practice physical distancing of at least six feet between you and others.

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