Bahamas Minister of Health challenges health practitioners

NASSAU, Bahamas – Foreign doctors are seeking licenses to practice in the Family Islands, while most Bahamian physicians refuse to work out of New Providence and Grand Bahama, Minister of Health, National Insurance and Public Information Sen. the Hon. Dr. Bernard Nottage told health practitioners.

Too many Bahamian physicians are also not computer literate and are not participating in the medical information highway and making use of health information systems, he added.

“Meanwhile, I am getting requests from foreign physicians and from investors to set up tele-medicine practices in the Bahamas using imported nurses as the local ‘providers’ while they treat the patients from their facilities in the United States and elsewhere.

“This is particularly so in areas where there will be increased numbers of foreign residents or tourists who want to have the assurance they can access the appropriate level and quality of healthcare they can in their home countries should the need arise,” Dr. Nottage said.

“My question to you is will the local healthcare professionals rise to the occasion or will they blame the government for the consequences of their lack of response?”

Dr. Nottage was speaking at the Medical Association of the Bahamas 35th Annual Conference held under the theme “An Ounce of Prevention…A Pound of Cure” at the British Colonial Hilton on Wednesday, March 14.

He told those present that as the Bahamas becomes an even more cosmopolitan destination, there will also be an increase in the need for multi-lingual or at least bilingual doctors.

“Physicians who can communicate in more than one language will be an asset as we move forward in both general and health tourism.”

The Minister reminded the health practitioners they must remain cognizant that the Bahamas is being used as a conduit for counterfeit drugs bound for the United States and elsewhere from other parts of the world including the U.K. and Asia.

“What is disturbing about this is that it is alleged that pharmacists located in our country are participating in this nefarious and potentially harmful activity.

“There are also allegations that at least one Bahamian physician is prescribing pharmaceuticals through the Internet,” Dr. Nottage said. “It is important for you to be aware of these occurrences and be mindful of any implications for the medical allied professions in the Bahamas.”

Dr. Nottage also reminded senior physicians they have a responsibility to mentor junior doctors in the field.

“I wish to share with you the impression I have that junior physicians, certainly in parts of the public sector, feel abandoned and unguided by their senior colleagues. Many seem to feel that they are being used without concern for their futures.”

This is not typical of a profession where doctors by nature are teachers and senior physicians usually pride themselves on assisting in a very tangible way with and taking responsibility for the growth and development of their junior colleagues.

The government is moving to amend all the current health related legislation including the Medical Act to make them all more appropriate for today’s environment.

“In the Bahamas, it has been reported to me that there are persons who are ‘practicing’ medicine without a license and impersonating physicians.

“I am told that they current legislation does not permit them to be either regulated or deterred,” Dr. Nottage said. “This, I hope, will be change in the near future.

“The unsuspecting public must be protected.”

But the Minister noted, “At the same time however, we must also look at those methods of alternative medical practices, which are beneficial to the public.

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