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Nassau, Bahamas - Address By
The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, M.P. Prime Minister at The Official
Opening of The Critical Care Block, Princess Margaret Hospital on
Thursday, 22nd January, 2015:
It is appropriate that I should begin with a biblical reference and it is this: The book of Genesis, Chapter 11 verse 6, The Lord said, “if as one people – speaking the same language – They have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”. Standing in the shadow of this newly constructed 66,000 square foot addition to our nation’s most iconic public hospital; I cannot help but recall that poignant verse of scripture – “Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”.
On behalf of the people and Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I am privileged to stand before you on this occasion marking the official commissioning of the new Critical Care Block here at the historic Princess Margaret Hospital. Here and now, we formally dedicate this state-of-the-art, modern healthcare facility to the service of the Bahamian people.
The opening of this Critical Care Block, which stands comparison with any in the Region and elsewhere, is a reminder of how far we have come in terms of the level and quality of health care that is available in our public institutions. It comes at a cost but in terms of the benefits and the quality of care which this facility will provide the benefits will far outweigh the cost. Moreover, it cements the place of prestige that our tertiary care has earned and it builds confidence and pride in the staff and all those associated with this facility.
Ladies and Gentlemen, when events and timelines such as these are commemorated, it is important to also note some of the events that have preceded it as a way of measuring how far we have come, as means of garnering a full appreciation of the moment shared.
It is, therefore, important to note that during the height of colonial slavery in 1788, maps of New Providence denote the existence of an African hospital on West Hill Street. Many of us became aware of this, thanks to the tremendous research and talent of Dr. Harold Munnings, in his book, Princess Margaret Hospital: The story of a Bahamian institution.
It is, therefore, instructive to realize that even in those most brutal of years in the then colonial days when there was hardly anything of comfort in The Bahamas a basic and rudimentary system of healthcare, and access to healthcare was a concern of the society. Going a little further, two hundred and five years ago, the people of these Bahama Islands made a first organized attempt at a public hospital it was in 1809, when facilities were set aside to deal with the sick; it was not called a hospital but rather it bore the simple nomenclature “The Poorhouse”. This was where the humble and destitute who were sick and in need of medical attention, including, the indigent, lepers and the mentally ill received attention of some form or another.
Today, the provision of quality and excellence in caring for those in need remains the hallmark of this modern era, and, as we know it has taken a new and exciting turn.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this facility represents an investment of over fifty million dollars in construction costs and a further forty-five million dollars in medical equipment, management information systems and furniture which has extended across two successive government administrations and two Prime Ministers.
This modern medical technology is the culmination of the single largest financial investment in the public health system in this nation since the initial construction of Princess Margaret Hospital itself over sixty (60) years ago. We are therefore looking at a one shot investment of close to $100 million. As I have alluded to, it is money well spent for any number of reasons.
And so, on behalf of the Government and People of the Bahamas, I wish formally and publicly to commend the leadership of the Minister of Health, Dr. Perry Gomez, and his predecessor, the Hon. Hubert Minnis, the Public Hospitals Authority under its various Chairmen and Boards and the Critical Care Block project team for their steadfast commitment to bringing a project of this scale to completion.
I would also like to formally commend the planning, design construction and engineering teams for their outstanding performance. Raising a facility like this out of the ground in ideal circumstances would have been a monumental achievement on a green field site.
The fact that these talented professionals and skilled craftsmen have done so here in the bustling heart of downtown Nassau, on the site of an existing and functioning hospital, having to excavate, install infrastructure and erect new construction without ever interrupting the ongoing services of our nation’s largest hospital, is an outstanding accomplishment.
In line with this, I am aware that there are many who have contributed their collective professional skills to make this have happen and I wish to acknowledge the contribution made by Cavalier Construction who was the general contractor, Michael Diggiss and Associates, the Design Group, The Beck Group, VERITAS Consultants, CSB Consultants, MEP Consultants, Brown and Associates, Terrain Design & Management, Gene Burton and Associates and all of the other partners and stakeholders who have invested their time and talents into bringing the Critical Care Block to reality. They deserve this moment of public recognition and more.
The collective talent of this team of professionals is a poignant statement and affirms my Government view that we must believe in Bahamians. It is with tremendous satisfaction that I note that the Project Team, beginning with the lead consultant, Michael Diggiss and Associates is comprised, mainly, of Bahamians. It is of considerable pride to note that the US based Beck Group who were instrumental in the planning and design phases of the project is headed by a Bahamian, Mr. Fred Perpall. Well done to all.
I would also like to highlight the involvement of the financial sector in turning what was a dream into reality. The Critical Care Block was funded through a partnership (loan) acquired by the Public Hospital’s Authority (PHA) through the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Further financing has been obtained from First Caribbean and The National Insurance Board for the state of the art equipment and the result of those financial arrangements are evidenced today.
You have heard from previous speakers this afternoon about what is contained in the Critical Care Block. I am deeply impressed by the fact that this new block contains six state of the art surgical suites and twenty Intensive Care Unit Rooms, among other facilities. I can personally recall from my time as Minister of Health when the surgical suite in the old building was in constant usage, thus making it difficult to schedule surgical procedures and this led to so many complaints. Today, this will be a thing of the past. The enhanced facilities, all taken together, will make a positive impact on critical care delivery.
On a personal note, I must confess that this is a moment of immense personal satisfaction for me. Many of you would be aware that I served as Minister of Health and National Insurance beginning in 1977 so I can appreciate where we have come to date. I can recall Dame Marguerite, our Governor- General, in her role as First Lady laying the cornerstone at the outpatient wing in this very hospital; that wing still houses many outpatient clinics as well as the Accident and Emergency Department.
As you can imagine at that time over thirty five years ago, our national health priorities were focused on expanding access to public health services to all our Family Islands and into the communities where clinics had been lacking. Today, that dream is near to becoming a reality and we have Mini Hospitals in several of our major islands and we now have healthcare professionals, doctors and/or nurses in every one of our major populated islands.
We can all recall the days when a diagnosis of advanced heart disease meant that families and communities would have to struggle to send a patient abroad for surgical treatment.
Today, the advancements we have seen in our surgical department is a significant step forward at ensuring that Bahamians can receive advanced medical care without having to travel abroad. In fact, what the Critical Care Block most represents in the enhancements of medical technology matches the expertise of our physicians and specialists. More and more complicated surgical procedures will be performed right here in this facility, as the excuse that the facilities and technology did not exist has fallen away.
But even as we celebrate our accomplishments we acknowledge that the commissioning of this Critical Care Block is but one of the stepping stones on our journey to a more healthy society. It would be ideal if we did not have to spend as much as we do on health care. The reality is too many of us are facing illness and infirmities and even death because of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. These illnesses are preventable and they are affecting more and more Bahamians because of poor lifestyle choices.
An example of this is in Cardiovascular Diseases. I am informed that Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death in the overall population, accounting for one-quarter of all deaths in this country. In 2011 our mortality rate due to cardiovascular diseases was 146.8 per 100,000 persons. In raw numbers this represents a total of 525 persons dying from Hypertensive, Ischemic Heart and Cerebrovascular Diseases combined. Heart Diseases have dominated the leading causes of death in The Bahamas for many years now. Our people suffer from obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, tobacco, excessive alcohol use, among other factors.
From a policy point of view, no matter how you analyse these statistics it is a totally unacceptable position and it is a continuing matter of concern for our health care professionals in terms of remediation. We acknowledge that we have limited resources and we will not be able to build more and more facilities such as this and others in a repeating cycle. And so the message is that Bahamians must take full control of our health and make important lifestyles changes for the better. I say that against the backdrop that I am advised that over half of the patients admitted to this very hospital are admitted due to conditions related to non-communicable diseases.
All of which brings me to the question of implementation of National Health Insurance. It is clear and it is becoming critical that we look at other means of financing health care. It cannot continue to be a direct cost to the Government, especially with heightened expectation for more and better facilities and more and better trained health care professionals.
There is no question that the provision of affordable health care has become very expensive to the average Bahamian and we are all aware of the many sad stories where one is unable to get the care that they need because of lack of financial resources.
But I have always believed that quality Healthcare is a basic human right and so, I wish to reaffirm the commitment of my government that through a National Health Insurance Scheme, my government will endeavour to ensure that every citizen of the Bahamas has full access to quality care when they need it.
We are on course to implement National Health Insurance by next year, 2016. This cornerstone of our public health policy will ensure universal and equitable access to healthcare to all Bahamians no matter where in this Commonwealth they may reside.
Costs associated with a National Health Insurance scheme, one can imagine, is not insignificant, however those costs can be reduced if we all commit to taking full control of our health and make important lifestyles changes for the better.
Before I conclude, let me pay a special tribute to those many men and women who have made a memorable contribution to this institution, the PMH, in all of its years of existence. We must remind ourselves that we are building on their accomplishments. I recall, most respectfully, the contribution of the doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who could only have dreamt of such a facility.
The list would have to include, Dr. Earl Farrington, Dr. Cecil Bethel, Dr. John Lunn, Dr. George Sherman, Dr. Archie Donaldson, Dr. DeGregory. They were followed by a younger generation in the person of Dr. Bernard Nottage, Dr. Linelle Haddox-Gordon, Dr. Percy McNeil, Dr. Herbert Orlander and Dr. Winston Campbell, all deserving of honourable mention. There were some towering Nursing Matrons and who could forget the contributions made by Ms. Hilda Bowen and Mrs. Ironica Baker-Morris.
They are a part of this occasion, if only in spirit. I remember, especially, the late Dr. Henryk Podlewski, who died recently at the age of 94, and who can be described as the Father of modern Psychiatry in The Bahamas and also one who has made a meaningful contribution to advancing and improving the psychiatric and physiological treatment offering at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre.
Ladies and Gentlemen in a few moments we will conclude our official programme here with the laying of the cornerstone for the Critical Care Block. This is not an insignificant act. The act of ceremonially laying the cornerstone is the symbolic establishing of the foundation for any noteworthy enterprise. It commemorates for generations yet unborn the importance of what we do today and it forecasts our commitment to follow through on all the promise that this day holds.
My fellow Bahamians, the construction and equipping of this most modern of hospital facilities is a high-water mark in our progress as a nation. Completing this project has not been without challenge but this edifice stands as a shining testimony that for us, nothing will be impossible.
© Copyright 2015 by thebahamasweekly.com
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