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Bahamas Minister of Health wants more doctors to practice medicine in Family Islands

NASSAU, The BahamasBahamas Minister of Health and National Insurance Sen. the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage called for specialist family practitioners and trained public health physicians to practice in the Family Islands.

The Minister’s appeal came during the induction and awards ceremony for the graduating class of 2006 of the University of the West Indies School for Clinical, Medicine and Research, Bahamas Campus, at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort and Spa, Cable Beach.

The Minister noted there are only two Bahamian physicians at the 90 public health clinics in operation in the Family Islands.

Bahamas Ministry of Health Hon. Bernard J. Nottage
Hon. Bernard J. Nottage

“As these islands experience economic growth due to substantial investments, there will be an influx of people, goods and animals through the many ports of entry. There will be the emergence of communicable diseases and there will be an increased need for emergency medical care and management. These needs are increasing now,” Dr. Nottage said.

The Minister said new clinics and mini-hospitals are already either in the final construction phase or on the drawing board in Inagua, Cat Island, Abaco, Eleuthera Exuma, Grand Bahama and elsewhere. He also said there is an urgent need for ‘specialist’ Family Practitioners and trained Public Health physicians, and t

hat the manpower study also recommended that the number of qualified psychiatrists needed to be doubled over the next two to three years.

“So you may wish to consider career paths in the sub-specialties of psychiatry such as Forensic and Pediatric psychiatry,” Dr. Nottage said. “These are not necessarily the most glamorous of the specialties but they are the most needed.”

He said the Ministry of Health and the department of Public Health are endeavoring to ensure that there is a physician on each Family Island.

“Today, Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay, located in the southeastern Bahamas, continue to share one doctor. And we are seeking to ensure the mental health of the communities throughout the urban areas,” Dr. Nottage said.

According to Dr. Nottage, the manpower review revealed that there are 437 doctors in practice in The Bahamas — 320 in the public sector and 117 in the private sector. By 2003, the total number of physicians had increased to 523.

“Whereas Bahamian students tended to seek their training in the US, the UK, Canada and the West Indies, we now have students throughout the region with perhaps the largest number studying in Cuba,” he said. “Once all the complications of that diversity are sorted out, there is likely to be an even greater increase in the growth of the profession.”

He said the Physician manpower review of 2002 projected that expanding services for the next three to five years would require 15 to 20 new physicians per annum.

“Despite the increase numbers, however, Bahamian doctors still tend, for economic reasons, to remain in New Providence or Grand Bahama to practice, leaving the Family islands to the public sector and the non-Bahamian physicians,” he said.

Ministry of Health and the Department of Health are endeavoring to ensure that there is a physician on each Family Island.

Dr. Nottage urged doctors to keep abreast of various diseases such as SARS, H5NI virus, HIV/AIDS and medicine or they would be of little value to their patients.

“The discipline of medicine will challenge you to keep alongside the new developments in healthcare, the new treatments of old diseases as well as the treatment of new emerging diseases,” he said.

The Minister implored graduates to allow punctuality, productivity and professionalism to be their credo.

“Too many young professionals seem to use the sector as an economic base to ensure a steady income, but do not put in the time for which they have been paid,” he said.

Minister Nottage encouraged the graduates to adopt and live by the simple motto: “Know their work, go to work and do your work.”


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