By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
Following criticism over the COVID-19 response on Grand Bahama, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson assured that government is working aggressively in the ongoing fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Describing the situation in Grand Bahama as “very serious,” he stressed that in order to overcome the virus Grand Bahamians must be united and supportive of each other and health officials.
“We are aware of the public’s concerns and fears which should not be politicized,” he said on Wednesday, as Grand Bahama has now recorded some 439 cases.
“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,” Mr Thompson said.
Minister Thompson indicated that Grand Bahama has been particularly challenged due to Hurricane Dorian, which destroyed the Rand Memorial Hospital.
“Unprecedented is an understatement when describing the plethora of challenges the island 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,” he said.
He indicated that the island will have a “new Rand Memorial Hospital” in September when work is expected to be completed.
“Contrary to critics, construction of a new COVID-19 Center on property was started several months ago and should be ready for occupants in a few weeks,” he said. While this will not be a new hospital it most certainly will be a new Rand Memorial Hospital.”
He said that 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 6 negative pressure rooms that can accommodate 6-12 patients and an additional 10 beds.
Minister Thompson pointed out that only COVID-19 patients or persons under investigation are currently housed there, and that 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,’’ he said.
“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 Opposition who 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 were 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” he said.