Ministry of Health Focused on Bringing Healthcare to the Community



Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis gets his blood pressure checked Thursday night during a Community Mini Health Fair hosted by the Department of Public Health at the Flamingo Gardens Clinic. Dr. Minnis said chronic, non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) including hypertension, diabetes and obesity account for 65 per cent of visits to healthcare facilities within The Bahamas. He said Community Clinics such as the Flamingo Gardens Clinic will play a key role in addressing this area. Pictured (from left) are: Dr. Sophia Smith, Flamingo Gardens Clinic, Dr. Minnis, Mrs. Barbara Burrows, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Development and Ms. Cleomi Burrows. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, Bahamas – Community Clinics are expected to play an even greater role in the delivery of quality healthcare to Bahamians as part of restructuring that will bring the hospital to the communities.

Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said the measure is part of the Government’s National Strategic Plan to build better communities throughout The Bahamas, using the healthcare sector as one of its driving forces.

Dr. Minnis noted that the restructuring will also lead to reduced waiting times and delays at the Princess Margaret Hospital as persons seeking care for chronic, non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity and other illnesses, will be able to get that care at the community level.

CNCDs account for 65 per cent of the illnesses persons seek treatment for at the hospital and other health treatment facilities and if left untreated, can lead to more serious illnesses.

The Health Minister said reducing the number of persons with some form of chronic non-communicable disease is crucial, considering the fact that human beings are expected to live longer according to a United Nations study.

The Government wants to ensure that its citizens have the capacity to live healthy, productive lives “well into their 80s and beyond” if possible, he added.

“What we have found is that if we can build communities using the healthcare sector as its base, that we will have excellent results in many other areas in addition to health itself,” Dr. Minnis said.

“You will find that crime and poverty will decrease and that health and wealth will increase, which will result in better communities,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis pointed out that many of the CNCDs can be, if not prevented, controlled or minimized. He said that if left untreated, CNCDs can result in “more serious illnesses” that could require dialysis treatment or lead to strokes which he said would require hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Our objective is to not only increase the lifespan of our citizens, but also their quality of life,” Dr. Minnis said. “We want to ensure that at age 80-85 our people are healthy and productive and still capable of performing the tasks they were able to do at age 50.

“This can only be done through prevention and education and by building communities with healthcare as its main point. We want to encourage individuals to get to know what services are being offered at the clinics, what types of equipment are available and to get to build long-lasting relationships with the staff.

“Our primary objective for implementing this programme is prevention, while at the same time improving the quality of care that our citizens receive,” Dr. Minnis said.

The Health Minister said clinics will be staffed with some of the best doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and lab facilities to execute the plan.

The healthcare professionals, he noted, will be able to provide professional help with regards to diet, nutrition and exercise, and healthy living that can help reduce the number of persons in the community who are obese and/or overweight, either of which plays a huge role in the manifestation of chronic, non-communicable diseases.

Systems, Dr. Minnis said, will also be put in place to help track patients.

“We want to create a system so that even if you do not show up at any given time, our records would reflect exactly that; the kind of treatment you are receiving so that we can have Community Nurses, Doctors and/or Medical Students visit you to determine why you did not show up, deal with your situation appropriately and possibly bring you medication to you to ensure that you are taking it,” Dr, Minnis said.

“It is only by utilizing this type of service that we will be able to conquer the problems that we see within hospitals (with regards to) the waiting time, delays and chronic illnesses we see there,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis said health officials will ensure that patients continue to receive specialized care in terms of ante-natal, maternity and pediatric care etcetera, at the clinic level.

He said those who need surgical opinions will be able to receive those opinions at the community level as “that service will be delivered to you rather than having to make your way to the hospital.”

“We are going to build dynamic community/healthcare sectors so that persons will be able to receive assistance in a number of areas without ever having leaving their communities,” Dr. Minnis added.