covid19bahamas

Monday, January 18, 2021

covid19bahamas

Noted Psychologist Succumbs to COVID-19 in Florida

It was revealed that noted psychologist Dr Timothy McCartney succumbed to COVID-19. The 87-year-old died in Florida on Sunday, after being diagnosed with the infection sometime last week.

McCartney’s wife was also stricken with the virus.

Who was Dr Timothy McCartney?

  • Dr. McCartney was a Bahamian pioneer in psychology.
  • He obtained a doctorate in psychology from the University of Strasbourg in France. He also studied in the United States, Switzerland, Jamaica and England.
  • He served as a clinical psychologist for the Bahamas Ministry of Health from 1967 to 1993.
  • He made tremendous contributions to national life and to an understanding of mental health in The Bahamas. In 1969, he was awarded the Sir Victor Sassoon Golden Heart Award.

What PM Hubert Minnis says about his death

  • “I was saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Timothy McCartney, who passed away this morning (Sunday) in Florida. Born in 1933, Timothy McCartney was an exuberant, generous, kind-hearted man who excelled as a teacher and as a counselor. A deeply spiritual and creative individual, he dedicated his life to the well-being and enrichment of his family, friends, students, clients, and colleagues.
  • He was a retired professor emeritus and clinical psychologist, who taught in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, between 1993 and 2014. He also served as an organizational development consultant and as a facilitator of national and international courses and presentations.”

What Opposition Leader Philip Davis says about his death

  • “A trailblazer in his field locally and the personification of Bahamian exceptionalism internationally, Dr. McCartney was the first Bahamian to earn a doctorate degree in psychology. His broad and seminal research and development work include the book ‘Neurosis Under the Sun’, his extensive analyses on Bahamian sexuality, and work on the impact of the use of marijuana.
  • “He is perhaps most noted for his pioneering work in the fields of mental health and alcoholism – openly tackling the stigmas and shame attached to these diseases and addictions by bringing these sensitive social and health issues into the Bahamian mainstream for open, frank and honest public discussion and action through treatment.”

Featured image: The Tribune

It Gets Worse in Exuma and Eleuthera

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed the House of Assembly on Wednesday morning, bearing bad news. He said Exuma and Eleuthera’s COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing.

As of yesterday, Tuesday 17th,  there were a total of 99 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Exuma, and on Eleuthera, a total of 143 confirmed cases.

Why it matters

  • The competent authority in recent weeks announced restrictive measures for mainland Exuma, and mainland Eleuthera, due to exponential increases in new cases of COVID-19 on those islands.

What’s happening?

  • Health officials report that from the analysis of the map of cases, the spread is occurring throughout Exuma.
  • From interviews conducted in the community by the health team, some people are still having gatherings, and residents believe this is largely contributing to the spread of COVID-19 on Exuma.
  • A team from the Ministry of Health made up of members of the contact tracing team and the surveillance unit is currently in Exuma to assess the COVID-19 situation.
  • A health team is scheduled to return to Eleuthera next week to complete a follow-up assessment and to determine the impact of the recently imposed restrictive measures on that island.

Why Brennen’s Move to Washington in COVID Fight Causes Speculation

Dr. Delon Brennen, deputy chief medical officer, and a key component helping to spearhead the country’s battle against COVID-19, has relocated to Maryland, Washington to be with family.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis confirmed to reporters outside of Cabinet on Tuesday that Brennen is still employed with the government and continues to lead the charge as he works with the Ministry of Tourism on border control in the United States.

Brennen is stationed at the Bahamas’ embassy in Washington D.C.

What Prime Minister Hubert Minnis actually said

Dr. Minnis said Brennen’s family lives in Washington and his government encourages “families to be together.”

Minnis added that people can work from anywhere in the world with the use of technology, as one does not have to be stationed in a physical location. Minnis said his government encourages Bahamians to become technologically savvy as the world changes.

“I would urge all Bahamians to be technologically savvy and advance because our jobs in the future can be jeopardized because an individual can be living in Ireland or New Zealand and working in Scotiabank,” Minnis said.

He continued: “We must take advantage of it. So, once we are technologically advance, we too can be living in New Providence and working at Wall Street or whatever.”

What this move means

The country is in the middle of a “surge” as acknowledged by health officials, with reports of overcrowding at the country’s premier health facility, Princess Margaret Hospital.

Brennen has emerged as the constant face and voice at the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 update conferences and radio talk-shows explaining the impact of the virus on the country, dispensing facts on the country’s response, while defending the need for restrictions like lockdowns and social distancing.

Brennen’s move to the U.S during a time when the country battles more than 2000 active cases and health facilities are near collapse can leave many feeling that the country is fighting a losing battle.

His move comes at a time when many people question if the country will ever get a grip on the virus that seems to be worsening as government reimposes stricter measures to combat the spread.

His move is a great disappointment as many believe that all hands should be on deck to bring the deadly virus under control.

Brennen once shot down resignation rumors

Back in August, Brennen denied social media rumours that he was set to resign. Social media users claimed that Brennen had given notice of his resignation because of the government’s handling of the virus.

But Brennen told the Tribune, “…I have not submitted ‘notice of intention to resign’…I think that’s what it (the social media post) said.”

The denial of the rumours came at a time when former Minister of Health Duane Sands resigned due to “breach of protocol” and Task Force Coordinator Merceline Dahl-Regis left her position as the head of COVID-19 response coordinator.

Some people say Brennen is at odds with the government

A social media user identified as Dave T said, “Something is not right about that! Family or not, his responsibility is the Bahamian people under this health crisis.

Ashley Bethel said she is not surprised by the news. “Some knew it months ago and when asked, they denied it because it wasn’t official.”

Tatty Ingraham said, “I think he and his boss was at odds and he got tired and quit but the government didn’t want to look bad so [it] kept him on the payroll.”

How COVID-19 Is Forcing Doctors to Compromise Their Oath to Heal

The sobering comment by Former Health Minister Duane Sands has set off a public debate mixed with fury and uncertainty.

Sands on a local radio station, Guardian Radio, “The Hitback,” with Nahaja Black, said the heightened case of coronavirus in the country has placed doctors in a position to decide who lives and who dies.

The earnest reality of the pandemic has caused doctors to place patients with other life-threatening diseases like heart disease and cancer on the back burner, causing some to die.

With a high degree of certainty, the former minister said, “I understand the implications of my comment…that is happening now.”

Other countries have done the same

Physicians in the United States of America, Canada, and Italy have already been forced to make such moral decisions.

These countries have larger populations and the unexpected wave of the virus has filled their hospitals beyond capacity. Back in early March, Italy’s health system said there were too many patients for each one to receive adequate care. So, the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI)  published guidelines that doctors should follow as cases worsen.

These patients should be left to die as they place demands on scarce medical resources, according to the document written by a group of medical doctors.

  • Patients that are old
  • Patients with comorbidities
  • Patients who require intensive care

They are guided by the utilitarian approach which stresses the principle, “the greatest good for the largest number,” which would ensure that patients with the highest chance of survival will access intensive care.

Doctors in the Bahamas are reaching that point

When health facilities are full to capacity, physicians are placed in a position where they are unable to manage and provide care for a patient who may need respiratory assistance.

Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, director of the Infectious Disease Programme said she has not personally seen a patient die because of the ability to provide care, but the country is close.

“If we continue beyond capacity, those difficult decisions may have to be made,” she said.

Health workers confirmed that the Bahamas is in a surge and the system is being pushed beyond capacity, emphasizing that the ability to provide care in that environment is challenging.

Samaritan’s Purse Sets Up Field Hospital As COVID-19 Surges

The Samaritan’s Purse comes to the aid of the Bahamas again, more than one year after assisting the Bahamas after the passage of Hurricane Dorian.

The organization led by Franklin Graham is deploying a field hospital in Nassau as health facilities grapple with increases in COVID-19 infections.

Why it matters?

The Bahamas has over 2000 active cases that are putting extra pressure on the country’s premier health facility, Princess Margaret Hospital. The health facilities are full and nurses and doctors are overwhelmed as a number of health workers suffer from the infectious virus or have been placed in quarantine due to exposure.

The details on how it will work

  • Samaritan’s Purse will provide a 28 bed COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Unit to increase patient capacity.
  • The tented inpatient facility will be located adjacent to the Princess Margaret Hospital.
  • It will also serve as a COVID-19 referral center for the Bahamas.
  • This unit will not include ICU treatment, but only step-down care.
  • No ventilators will be provided or operated by Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Samaritan’s Purse will provide the Unit and all staffing to operate for a 3 to 6 week period. Personnel will consist of 30 staff members, including medical professionals required to provide clinical care and operations staff to oversee the initial set-up and supporting logistics.
  • Samaritan’s Purse will also provide Infection Prevention Control training to protect Bahamian healthcare workers from COVID-19 infection.
  • Public Health staff will work alongside Samaritan’s Purse. The treatment unit will be donated to the Government of The Bahamas upon Samaritan’s Purse’s departure.

What did they say?

Health Minister Renward Wells

“This unit is being set up as a proactive and precautionary measure. The entire world, including the Bahamas, is experiencing the second wave of COVID-19. The Bahamas and countries in the Northern Hemisphere are in flu season and approaching winter.

Wells said, “It is critical that the Bahamas has additional healthcare capacity as the global pandemic continues, with more waves of the virus likely, which is why we continue to augment healthcare capacity here at home.”

CEO and Pastor Franklin Graham

“Hospital staff is overwhelmed and exhausted as the number of coronavirus patients in the Bahamas reaches an all-time high.

“Our team’s response to the hard places in Jesus’ name, this is the right place to go to make a difference in the lives of hurting families.”

Featured pictures: Samaritan’s Purse

Unemployment Benefits Decrease to $100. Is It Sufficient?

The unemployment benefit will decrease from $150 to $100, as announced by Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle.

This is not the first time reduction has occurred. The benefits have undergone reductions prior. When the program was launched in March to assist people left unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic, the weekly payment was $200 but decreased to $150 on July 1st.

Is it enough?

While the $100 may be meager, Brensil Rolle believes it still provides a level of income for people who are without as the country grapples with a depressing economy for the last six months.

It is certainly not what people are accustomed to making.

“We want to make sure that individuals have the ability to make assistance. We don’t see ourselves as the instrument that provides the Rolls Royce. We are down to a Toyota.  When it reaches December, it will be nine months of continuous assistance to individuals,” Rolle said.

Why was it extended?

The program was intended for people left unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic and was scheduled to run for 13 weeks. However, as the lockdowns persist, the need for continuous financial assistance remains great.

The assistance is also extended to people who would not normally qualify for the benefit.

“The government continues to provide assistance to individuals who we know are, maybe, desperate… We are doing our best to provide assistance and some income support to those individuals at this time,” Rolle said earlier this week.

“The first extension, as you may recall, was in July when we thought that we were going to reopen.

“We took individuals up to July and then we didn’t open, we added this program was to be 13 weeks. Now that we have the lockdowns, we extended the assistance through December.”

The big picture

  • During the COVID-19 crisis, the government-funded unemployment assistance Programme for Self Employed persons – $15.61 Million to just over 7,000 recipients. Recipients were paid $200 per week for up to 12 weeks.
  • $56.1 million have been paid to 30,788 persons as of October 11, under the  Unemployment Extension Programme. This programme is still on-going for persons still unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Persons were paid up to $150 per week for an additional 13 weeks.
  • The ordinary NIB unemployment benefit for contributors to the NI Fund – $91.6 million for just under 37,061 claimants. This program is on-going for eligible beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are paid at the rate of 50% of the insurable wage for up to 13 weeks.

Are Bahamians Adhering to COVID-19 Protocols?

Following the 24-hour weekend lockdown and the implementation of the 7 pm curfew, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said the number of citations issued by police officials, have reduced drastically.

Speaking to reporters at the Police Community Outreach on Fox Hill Park, Rolle said the message is “getting across,” as only 5 persons were ticketed in New Providence over the weekend.

“Most people have been in compliance…We hope this is soon over to move our lives back to normalcy.”

Why it matters

Hundreds of people have appeared before the Magistrate’s Court, imprisoned and fined for violating the national curfew and lockdown measures.

Social gatherings reduced

Rolle said while there were no reports of parties in New Providence, police cited lawbreakers in the Family Islands, some of whom held parties despite the COVID-19 measures. He said one particular violator in Exuma was “dealt with.”

Parties continue to be a major concern and a suspect in the spread of the infectious virus in the country. Police say they will continue to clamp down on these events.

Minnis said last month, “I want to again discourage large social gatherings and parties. We are able to relax or we must implement more restrictive measures depending on what we do together to limit the spread of COVID-19, which you see from the news is still very much out of control in many countries in the world.”

The big picture

The country hit more than 5000 cases over the holiday weekend. A 24-hour lockdown and new 7 pm curfew were enforced in New Providence and Abaco to reduce infections as the country averages one death per day.

Countries that do not adhere to COVID-19 protocols are at risk of faster contract cases and exponential increases in COVID-19.

Why Davis Refuses to Attend Meeting With PM and PAHO

Opposition leader Philip Davis said he nor members of the Progressive Liberal Party will attend a COVID-19 special meeting planned with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, PAHO representative Dr. Esther de Gourville, and the Government’s Health Consultant Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis–although they were invited.

The special meeting, announced in Dr. Minnis’ national address to the nation on Sunday, was scheduled for today, as the government strategizes a plan to combat the exponential increase of COVID-19 cases in New Providence and Abaco.

Why is the PLP not attending?

In a press conference, Davis revealed that he refuses to attend as he wants all PLP members to be in attendance. He said the invitation was only extended to three members of his organization, although Minnis said, “the leader of the opposition and his team have been invited.”

Davis said, “Three persons are not my team.”

Davis referred to this as conflicting information, thus he rearranged a separate meeting with PAHO for next Monday, October 12th.

What this means

Dr. Minnis in his address on Sunday, hinted at a possible lockdown for areas of the Bahamas where the number of cases continues to rise, adding that the meeting with key stakeholders will outline specific strategies for the way forward.

Minnis purposed that after the meetings, he will brief the nation on the recommendations of our health experts, especially on the way forward for New Providence and Abaco.

However, if Davis and his team are absent from the meetings, they miss an opportunity to problem-solve, discuss, and come to conclusions by collaborating together, particularly if a national lockdown is announced.

Featured Image: The Tribune

A Case for the Flu Vaccine: Wells Convinces

Health Minister Renward Wells announced that October begins influenza or ‘flu’ season, which lasts until March.

He said last year the healthcare system treated thousands of people in the Bahamas affected by the flu or complications from the flu.

The reasons Wells presented for a flu vaccination

  • Unlike COVID-19, there is a vaccine available to protect people from influenza. It is important that we all get the flu vaccine, especially during this time of COVID-19.
  • The flu vaccine is safe and effective and this is supported by years of research.
  • It is recommended that all persons older than 6 months should get the annual vaccine to prevent getting the flu unless specifically instructed not to by a doctor.
  • The flu similar to COVID-19 is characterized by symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, and runny nose, and a general unwell feeling. Illness can be mild or severe.
  • This year greater significance must be placed on availing oneself of the available flu vaccine. There is currently no vaccine for COVID19, however, the flu vaccine can provide protection from the current circulating strains.

How do influenza and COVID-19 differ?

Health officials say the illnesses differ by severity, death rate, and contagiousness.

COVID-19 causes severe illness, against which humans have no immunity. By contrast, with influenza, many people have some degree of immunity against it, to prevent hospitalization and complications in most instances.

Officials believe COVID-19 is deadlier than influenza, as the death rate of influenza is roughly 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, the case fatality rate for COVID-19 is estimated to be about 1.4-4.5 percent, with the risk of death being significantly higher for older persons than for younger individuals.

Another difference is COVID-19 appears to be more contagious than seasonal influenza. A person infected with influenza spreads the disease to another 1.3 individuals. For COVID-19, an infected person spreads illness to another 2 to 2.5 persons.

Featured Photo: BIS Photos/Kemuel Stubbs

An Overwhelmed Morgue. A Look at Why Bodies Are Piling Up

Along with a high COVID-19 toll number, health officials are also dealing with an overwhelming number of bodies in the morgue at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

The bodies are crowding the mortuary, awaiting collection by family members and local morticians, to be buried.

Minister of Health Renward Wells and Managing Director at Princess Margaret Hospital said they need the space.

“Some persons are using the morgue at PMH as a storage facility for their deceased loved ones.

“The morgue at PMH continues to be stretched to capacity as a result of the delayed collection of loved ones who have passed.

“Some members of the public are opting to wait until restrictions are lessened to collect the bodies of loved ones,” Wells said.

He encouraged the public to arrange with mortuary companies to retrieve loved ones and advised the local mortuary companies to collect bodies that families have paid to be transported to funeral homes.

What’s the capacity of the facility?

Public Hospital Authority Managing Director Catherine Weech said the facility in New Providence has a capacity for 55 bodies but the facility is presently holding nearly 220 bodies.

In Grand Bahama, she said the storage facility has a capacity of 25, but at times, the facility is holding 50 to 75 bodies.

Weech said the authority has instituted a policy to ensure the COVID-19 deaths are separated from the non-related COVID-19 deaths.

Those bodies are housed in an external cooler at the hospital.

An aged-old problem?

The lack of sufficient space at the mortuary is not a new problem.

Back in 2018, former Minister of Health Duane Sands estimated that the morgue had the capacity for 60 bodies.

He lamented the little space left for the storage of bodies as family members at that time, failed to collect bodies of loved ones.

He told Eyewitness News at the time that Bahamians leave the bodies there because they cannot afford an “elaborate” funeral.

This is not a new problem, but a chronic problem, he admitted. He said the country needs a new morgue.

“The need for a new lab that functions more consistently with the needs and service demands of the country are clear…the viewing facilities are simply antiquated and leave much to be desired.”

Sands also proposed an increase and enforcement of storage fees to encourage undertakers to collect the bodies from the morgue.

“We have not been enforcing storage fees and so it is cheaper for the undertaker to leave the body there until they can bury the person. So they don’t incur the cost of storage,” Sands said.

What you should do?

Wells and Weech are asking families to retrieve the bodies to allow for proper management of bodies that must be housed.

The office is opened weekly and families should contact the Medical Records Department for the release of the bodies from the facility.

Wells said failure by morticians to comply will result in legal storage fees being applied.

 

Featured photo credit: Medical News Today