Saturday, September 10, 2016

This Week in The Bahamas


Commentary by Elcott Coleby

$200 million for health infrastructure upgrade
The Government of The Bahamas is poised to invest almost $200 million dollars in the infrastructural expansion and improvement of the country’s hospitals beginning later this month.

The expansion process is expected to take place over a two-year period and will include an $18 million investment in an Electronic Medical Records System – considered the “most modern health information system” available in the Developed World; and a $17 million investment in upgrades and expansions to the Maternity Ward at the Princess Margaret Hospital that will almost triple the space currently in use by Maternity Ward and Obstetrics and Gynaecology.  

Additionally, expansions and upgrades to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department at the Princess Margaret Hospital are also on the drawing board that will bring the Department in line with A&E facilities and services in Developed Countries along with the implementation of a 24-Hour Patient Advocacy Service.

Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) Managing Director Herbert Brown said, September 5, at a Nursing diploma programme launch at PHA, the introduction of the Health Information System will allow public health officials to address one of the significant areas of transformation in the public healthcare system “with regards to the intermittently inadequate quantities of pharmaceuticals in our hospitals and clinics.”


Government introduces Psychiatric Diploma Program
Thirty registered nurses from across the public healthcare sector have been selected to participate in the Public Hospitals Authority’s first Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Diploma Programme.

Mr. Herbert Brown, Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), said the implementation of the Psychiatric Diploma Programme is indicative of public health officials’ recognition that expanding access to Mental Health Services -- whether in the hospitals or the community – should be part of a larger strategy for raising the standards of healthcare for all Bahamians.

Mr. Brown said participation in the one-year Diploma Programme will not only allow the registered nurses to expand their knowledge and understanding of the concepts of mental health and mental illness, but also allow for the delivery of competent, safe, ethical, psycho-social, physical and spiritual care to clients with mental illnesses, their caregivers, families and communities.

“Each of you has been pulled from the dynamic and ever-evolving clinical environment to take your place in a very extensive programme of advanced study and training,” Mr. Brown told participants during the programme’s launch Monday, September 5, 2016 at PHA.

Mr. Brown said the launch of the programme coincides with the renewed focus on improving mental health outcomes throughout the public healthcare network. He said improvements/expansions to infrastructure, programmes and services at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, have been a part of this mandate and vision, and have made SRC one of the more innovative acute inpatient and outpatient facilities within the region and indeed the world.


The inter-ministerial approach to avoiding a Zika outbreak
Dr. Glen Beneby, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) said the Zika outbreak had given it “a golden moment” to demonstrate its capabilities prior to NHI’s introduction.  He further stated: “This gives us some very positive opportunities to work with our partners, to work with the Ministry of Education and all of the other ministries.”

He was speaking at a press conference earlier this week to update the country on the status of the Zika virus infections. He reported four new confirmed cases of the viral infection transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Senior medical Officer at the Department of Public Health Dr. Merciana Moxey said that 50 of the 83 suspected cases of Zika in the Bahamas came back negative after being tested. By week’s end the number of confirmed Zika infections totaled ten.

Dr. Beneby said that the Ministry of Health has budgeted $30 million annually to fight a potential Zika virus outbreak in The Bahamas, forcing the Ministry to adjust its financial plans. This aggressive campaign to “arrest” the Zika virus situation was necessary to avoid a level three travel alert from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a senior tourism official suggesting that such an advisory could have a damning effect on the country’s tourism offering.

The Ministry of Tourism’s Director-General Joy Jibrilu however said it was “too early to tell” whether there will be any significant “fall-out” for the industry from the recent Zika outbreak, adding that August had been “very strong” for visitor arrivals.

The Director General did reveal details of the Government’s four-pronged anti-Zika campaign which included pamphlet distribution at the ports of entry, education at the various resorts, aggressive fogging, having health officials on alert for any reported case and a massive public education campaign. The Ministry of Education has advised parents to apply insect repellent to their children before leaving home and made some adjustments to the dress code that increases the coverage of the body to minimize mosquito bites.

Jibrilu touted the efforts of public and private sector entities to help prevent Zika, including the Ministry of Health, Department of Environmental Health Services, the Ministry of Tourism, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and tourism related entities.


VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVE CONTINUES
The Parliamentary Commissioner wishes to inform the general public that Voter Registration continues throughout New Providence, at the Parliamentary Registration Department on Farrington Road, Marathon and Town Centre Malls, Elizabeth Estates Post Office, Carmichael Road Post Office, South Beach Post Office, Cable Beach Post Office, and on Grand Bahama at the Parliamentary Registration Department Sub-Office in NIB Building, Freeport, and at the District Administrator’s Office in the Family Islands, during normal working hours, Monday to Friday.  Also on Saturdays between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm at the following locations:
No.
Location
Time of Opening
1
Main Headquarters, Farrington Road
10:00am to 4:00pm
2
Mall at Marathon, Marathon Road
10:00am to 4:00pm
3
Elizabeth Estate Post Office
10:00am to 4:00pm
4
South Beach Post Office, East Street (South)
10:00am to 4:00pm
5
Carmichael Road Post Office
10:00am to 4:00pm
6
Cable Beach Post Office
10:00am to 4:00pm

Bahamian applicants who are 18 years and older, who wish to register, must bring their documents (Passport, or Birth Certificate, or a 2012 Voter’s Card) and apply to the Revising Officer who will interview applicants at the said locations.


BPL’s rolling blackout woes continue
Nearly one month after the first set of rental generators secured for BPL arrived in the country, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard said the site for the engines has not been prepared and the generators will “probably not be installed for another couple weeks”. Later in the week and after days of rolling blackouts, following a summer of power cuts, that outrage Bahamians, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard yesterday warned that BPL is now “at the end of the line”.  

According to BPL’s Corporate Communications Manager Arnette Ingraham, the company has been “temporarily patching” its’ troubled equipment but until its rental generators are installed there is “no way to tell” when frequent power outages will end, an official said yesterday. She conceded that “someone dropped the ball” when it came to preparing the site for BPL’s rental generators, but said the company is “hoping” to have them installed by the end of “next week”.


NIB gets new Managing Director
Ms. Renae McKay, Chairman of the National Insurance Board, is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Patricia Hermanns to the post of Director of the National Insurance Board (NIB) with effect from September 1, 2016. As Director, Ms. Hermanns is the CEO of NIB and heads the Executive Management team responsible for the day-to-day operations of the social security organization.

Ms. Hermanns is a former banking and insurance executive with more than 30 years’ experience in the financial services sector. She is credited with managing corporate transitions for greater efficiency and effectiveness, and successfully launching new life and health insurance as well as investment products and services.

Ms. Hermanns holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics and Spanish from New York University, New York, and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami.

Ms. Hermanns currently serves as a:
·Director of Bahamas Electricity Corporation/Bahamas Power and Light
·Director of Bahamas Resolve Ltd.
·Trustee of the Anglican Diocese Pension Fund
·Trustee of the Governor General Youth Award  


Chamber and opposition critical of new labour law
Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Chairman Gowon Bowe cautioned the Government against fast tracking labor laws in a “knee-jerk response” to the shocking mass redundancy action by Sandals. Bowe said the Chamber was extremely concerned about the one month timeline proposed by the Labor Department to bring “emergency legislation” that would criminalize mass redundancy without Government consultation.

The government recently proposed an “emergency” amendment to the Employment Act, making it a criminal offence for employers to fail to consult with the government on pending layoffs.

Aggressively defending private sector employers in this country, CEO of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Bahamas Employers Confederation said that the chamber will resist any “heavy handed” move by the government to impose the proposed labor reforms on it. He said this proposed amendment is “not sitting well” with the business community.

Weighing in was Peter Goudie, Co-chairman of the National Tripartite Council (NTC) and a member of the Chamber. Mr. Goudie defended the way Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort terminated more than 600 employees last month, saying the resort followed the law and acted correctly.

Also having their say was the opposition parties. FNM Labour spokesperson and Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner slammed the Government’s proposed labor law reforms as “the most ludicrous, ridiculous and hare-brained legislation I’ve heard of”. Butler-Turner, the party’s labor spokesman, said the private sector would be sent into “tailspin” if the Government imposes “criminal liability” upon employers for failing to inform it of redundancies involving 10 or more workers.

DNA leader Branville McCartney said the Government’s proposed changes to the Employment Act are nothing more than an attempt to “appease” the country’s laborers because of its “dishonesty” in handling the shock mass redundancy action by Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort.


In Passing…
Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Perry Christie led a delegation to London, England from September 1 - 4 where he and his ministerial team met with investors about pending investments in Grand Bahama and Ocean Cay. The investors include Mr. Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Cruises and executives from Hutchison Whampoa, the port developer in Freeport. Accompanying the Prime Minister were Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, Attorney General, Senator Allyson Maynard Gibson, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald, Minister for Grand Bahama affairs Dr. Michael Darville and Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister, Sir Baltron Bethel.

FNM candidate for South Beach Howard Johnson plans ended his campaign for the 2017 general election and relocated to the United States citing “personal and private matters.” This announcement came less than a week after the FNM’s Bain and Grants Town candidate Leonard Sands ended his campaign.

Child rights advocates are celebrating a recent Court of Appeal ruling they say clarified the way police officers and judges must deal with children that come into contact with the justice system. In its ruling last week, the Court of Appeal affirmed the importance of giving paramount consideration to the welfare of children when addressing them in legal matters such as bail hearings. A recent Court of Appeal ruling is set to change the way juveniles are handled in the country’s criminal justice system. The Court of Appeal, in a ruling earlier this month, overturned Supreme Court Justice Vera Walkins’ decision to deny bail to a 16-year-old boy accused of armed robbery and firearm possession, saying the judge’s decision to deny bail was not “safe and/or reasonable in all circumstances of the case.”

A two year old partnership has produced the first awards of the Idris George Reid Scholarship to attend the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI). The award was presented by Lodge Claudius R. Walker.

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald delivered his annual Back to School Address on Sunday. In it he highlighted some of the accomplishments the Ministry and called on all Bahamians to build a Stronger Bahamas together. Touting increased technology application into the learning experience, the Minister said “we are contributing to a modern Bahamas by ensuring that many of our students have access to technology and computerized literacy programmes.”

A small private aircraft crash landed at the airport in Walker’s Cay over the weekend, police reported. According to reports, a grey single engine plane en route to Walker’s Cay from Florida experienced mechanical problems while landing; however, the pilot and a male passenger were not injured.   

Education Director Lionel Sands said that officials were monitoring a situation in Moore’s Island, Abaco, in which parents reportedly barred their children from attending school on Monday to protest the failure to repair the island’s school over the summer.

FNM Senator Carl Bethel said from a legal standpoint, there is nothing the FNM can do to force the judiciary to unseal documents related to the new deal to complete Baha Mar and open it before the end of the 2016/2017 winter season.

DNA Leader Branville McCartney confirmed that he, along with senior members of the FNM and other third party executives, met last week to discuss how they can all work together to “get rid” of the PLP.

A bodyguard attached to Prime Minister Christie, Sergeant Brent Dixon, was shot several times Monday night during an armed robbery attempt outside a home off East Street.

The NHI Secretariat released a statement this week touting July and August as historic months for the NHI Bahamas programme with the passing of the NHI legislation into law. The press release also highlighted the release of the NHI policy paper and the RFP for the public insurer and wellness provider, as well as continued engagements with stakeholders and Bahamians throughout the country.

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said he hopes to table the long awaited Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation in October. Speaking to reporters before a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Fitzgerald said the FOI committee has finished its work.  

Minister of Social Services and Community Development the Hon. Melanie Griffin revealed on Tuesday that her department spent roughly $500,000 to prepare students attached to its Renewing, Inspiring, Sustaining, Empowering (RISE) Program ahead of the 2016 – 2017 school year.

On Tuesday the Ministry of Tourism announced the return of the Tru Tru Festival. The ministry is again the main sponsor of the festival, organized by the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA).  

James Smith, former State Minister for Finance, head of the committee overseeing Baha Mar payouts, said that creditors owed up to half a million dollars are “likely” to be fully paid what they are owed. How much money those owed more than half a million dollars receive, however, will depend on how many creditors come forth with claims, he said.

With less than four months remaining in the year, murders in The Bahamas as of September 6, 2016 were nearly half the murder count recorded in the same period last year. There were 100 murders recorded during this period last year, compares to the 68 murders recorded for 2016 so far, representing a 47 percent decline.

Fifteen students from Family Islands impacted by Hurricane Joaquin have been granted scholarships to attend the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), courtesy of the Rebuild Bahama Hurricane Relief Program.

Discussions are underway for the implementation of a trained clinical nursing program in Freeport to address the shortage of nurses in Grand Bahama. Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville met with representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Public Hospitals Authority and the COB at the Ministry of Grand Bahama on Wednesday.   

Based on an Appeals Court ruling earlier this week, it is now clear that employment contracts do not become “invalid or void” if an employee is working in The Bahamas illegally. The court upheld the $20,200 award to Jamaican national, Rupert Barrett, who had sued Tycoon Management and its owner, James Curling, for damages relating to “negligence and/or breach of contract” the lawsuit claims over injuries suffered when a dredging vessel sunk.  

A Bahamian owned cargo airline service known as Junkanoo Air is expected to boost economic growth by increasing the circulation of goods throughout The Bahamas and surrounding regions. Junkanoo Air is also the first HAZMAT (hazardous materials) certified Bahamian airline.

The Government signed two contracts on Thursday in Grand Bahama worth $11.5 million for the construction of a new junior high school in Holmes Rock; this project was ten years in the making for the residents of West Grand Bahama. The contractors selected to build the 25 classroom and administrative blocks are RCL Construction and Brickhouse Construction.

Consumer Protection Commission Chairman Senator Jerome Gomez argued that the heavy presence of unions in The Bahamas has created a “distortion” in the market and business environment. Gomez said this could be seen in the case of the 600 workers being made redundant at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort last month.

Mark Jones, president of Air Ambulance Inc. donated six laptops to the Centreville Urban Renewal Community Center valued around $1,500. Mr. Jones said that he has always been enamored with The Bahamas and felt compelled to make a donation to assist with the development of persons in the country, and added that his company plans to assist the Government with several ventures moving forward, including NHI.

US Charge d’Affaires Lisa Johnson hosted a welcome reception for the embassy’s new Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Penny Reckhemmer at the US Ambassador’s Residence on Wednesday.


Chairman of the House’s Committee on Privilege and Mount Moriah MP Arnold Forbes said on Thursday that hearings held by the committee will be open to the public and are expected to begin in about two weeks.

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