Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Moultrie Calls Out PM and Abruptly Adjourns the House. Here’s Why

In a surprising move in the House of Assembly today, House Speaker Halson Moultrie suspended the House session, setting a new date for parliamentarians to meet after the clerk tested positive for COVID-19.

But before adjourning the House, he openly rebuked Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and Government Business Leader Renward Wells for permitting the House to meet despite the positive case among staff and the parliament not being sanitized before meeting.

Moultrie said he reached out to both Minnis and Wells to determine if House should still meet today, and determine the measures staff should take, only to receive a message from Minnis saying, “noted.”

Another staffer, who Moultrie said should have been in quarantine, Asharan Lightbourne was “called upon to be here this morning, in breach of the request or the instruction of the speaker that [she] should be in quarantine,” he said.

The big picture

Since the advent of COVID-19, Moultrie has been calling on the government to pass a resolution to meet in hybrid form or virtually to prevent chances of more parliamentarians from contracting the virus. But those calls were not adhered to.

Why it matters

A staff member tested positive for the virus. Though not identified, it is believed to be the chief clerk as he was noticeably absent today. The Speaker described the staffer as the “closest person to him in the House.”

The staffer came to work on Monday and Tuesday showing symptoms of the virus, but returned home early after not feeling well. However, came back to work last week Wednesday when parliamentarians met.

His positive diagnosis was revealed yesterday.

What Moultrie is saying

Moultrie said parliament is in breach of its own order. “This is my final straw when it comes to the disrespect of the speaker. According to the rules, when the behaviour of a member is creating disorder, the speaker is authorized by rule 88, subsection 9 to adjourn the parliament until the circumstance is fixed,” he said.

“I don’t pick fights or wars, but if you want war, you will get a war. If you don’t want a war, don’t start one.”

Referencing Minnis who earlier stated that he read a book on wars, Moultrie continued, “So don’t come in this parliament talking about reading books of war. More than one person in this parliament read books of war.”

State of play

Because of the adjournment by Moultrie, the next session of the House will be May 3 at 10 am.

Limited Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines

The limited supply of vaccines in the country has forced health officials to narrow down inoculation to Bahamian citizens and permanent residents 18 years of age and over, and residents in the previously stated priority groups only.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Monday evening saying that health officials are awaiting the arrival of more vaccines in the country before the end of May so that all residents will be eligible to receive the jab.

The previously stated priority groups are:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Persons 50 years of age and older
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Uniformed branches (RBDF, RBPF, COVID Ambassadors, BDOCS, Customs and Immigration)
  • Teachers and staff of schools
  • Hospitality workers (hotel and resort employees, public transportation workers, Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), Nassau Airport Development (NAD)Co., Nassau Cruise Port (NCP), straw market, port, and beach vendors, and tour operators
  • Restaurant and retail workers
  • Students and athletes studying or competing abroad, coaches, and other support
  • Home-bound physically disabled residents
  • Members of the clergy; and
  • Accredited media (editors, reporters/anchors, photographers, and videographers).

Proof of citizenship, permanent residency status or a work ID will be required at the vaccination site. Failure to present the requested ID will result in appointment cancellation..

Persons who have already received a first dose of the vaccine will be eligible to receive the second dose which is scheduled to begin on May 10.


New COVID-19 Strains and Increase in Cases Worries Wells

Health Minister Renward Wells said the country is seeing a “three-fold increase in cases,” as it battles the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wells, speaking in the House of Assembly on Wednesday morning, said the scientific data shows that the country is experiencing another surge.

“Our data clearly shows that we are in another surge. We are noticing a pattern that was seen at the beginning of the second wave.”

Why it matters

As the country continues its vaccine roll-out, health officials are seeing an increase in the number of cases on a daily basis over the last two weeks. New infections are believed to be driven by international travel and a relaxed adherence to the health measures.

Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, special health advisor to the Office of the Prime Minister, and chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine National Committee stated at a press conference on Tuesday, that officials have been identified variants of the disease from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, and most recently from India.

“These variants spread more easily and are infecting younger age groups. The cases may be more severe,” Dahl-Regis said.

What Health Minister is saying

“…we saw how COVID-19 cases slowed down during the second wave at the end of October, beginning of November 2020 with no definitive end. We maintained a steady-state for some months.”

“However, by the end of February beginning of March, the picture changed, and in recent weeks there has been a three-fold increase in cases, which is almost 300%, from that time to now,” Well said.

The big picture

New Providence is the epicenter and the greatest contributor to the total COVID-19 statistics in the country, which means almost 60% of new cases are in the capital.

There has been a quieting of new cases on Eleuthera, Abaco and Grand Bahama compared to prior weeks.

Second Batch of AstraZeneca Vaccine Arrives in Country

More than 33,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country today, accessed through the WHO/PAHO COVAX Facility.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and members of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee were on hand to receive the shipment of the 33,600 doses which arrived at 11 am today.

Why it matters

This is the second batch of AstraZeneca vaccine to arrive in the country. The first batch of 20,000 doses was donated by India, which saw the inoculation of over seven thousand Bahamians.

The big picture

The AstraZeneca vaccine has received its share of criticism, nationally and internationally as nearly a dozen European countries temporarily halted its use as blood clot concerns grew among a small group of people inoculated by the vaccine.

These countries have since resumed the use of the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said its initial investigation has concluded that the vaccine is “safe and effective.”

What Minnis says today

Minnis admonished Bahamians to come forward quickly to get vaccinated when they are eligible to do so, insisting that the vaccine is the pathway to opening the economy and the creation of more jobs.

“It is dangerous to delay taking the vaccine in a global health crisis. As you wait, you can get infected by the virus. You can then end up in the hospital with permanent health issues or worst, it could kill you.

“The virus remains dangerous and is random in who it infects. Having COVID-19 can set you back for days, weeks, or many, many years.

“The only way out of the pandemic is through vaccination,” he said.

To prevent a third wave, Minnis advised Bahamians to receive the vaccination.

Rosewood Baha Mar Set to Welcome Back Staff and Guests on March 4

Hundreds of Bahamians are set to return to work at the Rosewood Baha Mar as it plans to reopen on March 4.

Why it matters

Thousands of Bahamians were furloughed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as major resorts closed their doors when the country’s border was shut to prevent further spread of the infectious disease.

The resort reopened Grand Hyatt, Baha Mar Casino and a few other restaurants and amenities in December.  The Rosewood would be part of its final reopening phase as the hotel welcomes guests back to its resorts.

Other details

Café Boulud The Bahamas, Baha Mar

Rosewood would reopen with Café Boulud The Bahamas which will offer the glamour of traditional French cuisine combined with the warm hospitality of a neighborhood café in a sophisticated Bahamian setting.

It will be led by the globally renowned Chef Daniel Boulud.

The menu will be inspired by Boulud’s four culinary muses – La Tradition, La Saison, La Mer and Le Voyage – in order to create a unique menu that will highlight the seasonality of local Caribbean ingredients.

Featuring some of the classical French dishes synonymous with Chef Daniel, Café Boulud will also showcase local vegetables and seafood, along with signature dishes like Paupiette of Sea Bass.

Featured image: Rosewood Baha Mar

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