Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis and senior officials at the Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health wrapped up a successful two-day visit to North Eleuthera over the weekend, where they reviewed the status of the healthcare facilities in the area.

The visit was the first step in a process to streamline the healthcare system throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and the Family Islands in particular. The Minister of Health has planned additional visits to other Family Islands during the course of August and September in order to gain “first-hand knowledge” of any deficiencies and/or shortages in the healthcare system in those islands.

Dr. Minnis, who was accompanied by the Director of Public Health, Dr. Baldwin Carey; Mrs. Charlene Bain, Acting Administrator, Department of Public Health; Mrs. Sandra Coleby, Acting Principal Nursing Officer, and Dr. Pearl McMillan, Senior Health Officer, Ministry of Health, in addition to senior healthcare managers in Eleuthera and local government officials, among others, reviewed everything from infrastructure, to equipment, to air quality systems and policies and procedures.

The Health Minister paid particular attention to the adherence to the measures that have been established between the Bahamas National Drug Agency (BNDA) and the healthcare facilities/clinics to ensure proper inventory controls of medications at those facilities flow seamlessly.

“Without proper inventory control, you will find that the Government will continue to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on medication and because of wastage, our medication lists would continue to rise as a result of poor controls,” Dr. Minnis said.

“One of the priorities of this visit was to ensure that the controls, policies and procedures that have been established are being adhered to and that everybody understands what those controls, policies and procedures are.

“Once we do that, it will result in a more cost-effective operation and the money that we are now expending could be spent to advance other areas of the healthcare system in the Family Islands and indeed The Bahamas at-large,” Dr. Minnis added.

The Health Minister said one such advantage the savings could result in is new X-Ray systems for health facilities/clinics in Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, which he said has been a “chronic complaint” from healthcare officials in those two communities.

Dr. Minnis said the Government of The Bahamas, through the Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health, is “committed” to determining what deficiencies exist in the healthcare system in The Bahamas, in order to determine a corrective course of action.

“We want to take the clinics in the Family Islands to another level as we are indeed trying to do for the entire Bahamas,” Dr. Minnis said. “We have had complaints about shortages of medications, of (clinics) not receiving medications and of patients not having their medications and so I wanted to make a determination as to why it was happening because the Government is purchasing the required medications.”

Dr. Minnis, who now spends at least one day out of his work week at the BNDA, said the complaints of patients not receiving medications are not a result of shortages in medications but could, in fact, result from poor inventory controls.

“This trip gave me an opportunity to see whether any deficiencies that may exist were at the clinic level in terms of inventory control, whether it was at the BNDA level, or whether it was at the wholesale level and whether or not the wholesalers are sending out the medication on time.

“Now that I am able to review the process from all sides, then I will be able to get a much clearer picture as to what is going on and everybody will be more accountable for the role they must play in ensuring that shortages do not occur,” Dr. Minnis added.

The Health Minister said wherever shortfall exists in inventory control methods, officials from the BNDA will be sent into those areas to review the control measures with the healthcare professionals at those facilities. He said he will also review the alternative of having senior personnel from the various islands travel to New Providence in order to participate in “Train the Trainer” programmes.

“Once we correct that problem, then obviously that will not be an issue again,” Dr. Minnis added.