Tele-Medicine Programme Improving Bahamas Healthcare

Minnis Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis receives a grand welcome from the students of the Hope Town All Age School Monday, January 10, during his official visit to the Abaco.

DUNDAS TOWN, Abaco — The Tele-medicine programme between the Princess Margaret Hospital in New Providence and the Marsh Harbour Clinic in North Abaco received a major vote of confidence earlier this week when one of the initial patients proclaimed that he “would not have been alive today, if the programme had not been implemented.”

Mr. Charles Bartlett made the statement during a Town Hall Meeting held at the state-of-the-art Friendship Tabernacle Church in Dundas Town, Abaco. The Meeting was held to inform residents of the proposed expansion of the programme to include a dermatology clinic.  Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis led a delegation of health officials from New Providence into Abaco.

They included specialist physicians Dr. Herbert Olander, Dermatology, and Dr. Colin Bullard, an Emergency Medicine Specialist who serves as the Coordinator of the Telemedicine programme.  The trio was accompanied by Mr. Montino Roberts, Information Technology Consultant with the Public Hospitals Authority, in addition to a number of senior nursing and health administration officials. Dr. Bullard and Mr. Roberts have played major roles in the early development and success of the Tele-medicine programme in The Bahamas.

“The Tele-medicine programme saved my life. I would not have been here today without it,” Mr. Bartlett proclaimed to a round of applause. “I am alive, well and healthy today because of the programme.”

Dr. Minnis said that because of its early successes, the programme will be expanded to include a Tele-dermatology clinic. That expansion will take place on Friday, January 21, 2011.  The Health Minister said the expansion of the programme into dermatology will go a long way in treating and reducing the number of skin disorders that are affecting Bahamians. Abaco, he said, is the starting point for the project.

He said as with the initial Tele-medicine programme, Abaconians with skin disorders will now be able to be assessed by Dr. Herbert Olander and his team of dermatology professionals at the clinic in Abaco – thereby reducing their need to travel into New Providence for dermatology consultations/treatment.  Dr. Minnis said medicines for various skin disorders are already on location to facilitate any prescriptions written by Dr. Olander and his medical staff.

“The purpose of the programme is to ensure that every Bahamian, on every island within the Commonwealth has access to the same kind of quality healthcare treatment as those residing in New Providence and Grand Bahama,” Dr. Minnis said.

“There is no doubt that small-island states such as The Bahamas face challenges in constructing full-scale, specialist medical facilities on every island and every cay because of our archipelagic make-up.

“Tele-medicine, will allow us to overcome those challenges as once the infrastructure is put in place, Bahamians and visitors alike in far-flung islands such as Inagua and Mayaguana, will be able to receive the same kind of specialist care and attention as those in New Providence and Grand Bahama,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis said the programme has positively impacted the provision of quality healthcare services to mainland Abaco and its surrounding cays by increasing access to emergency and other care, helping to reduce the need for air ambulatory services for critically injured persons who can now be assessed on the ground in Abaco, and by reducing the need for travel into New Providence for consultations.  Similar successes, he said, should be attained in the other islands of The Bahamas.

“What the Tele-medicine programme has done is that it has allowed medical personnel in New Providence – led by Dr. Bullard and his team – to liaise with medical personnel in Abaco to assess, examine, diagnose and treat patients,” the Health Minister said.

“This has helped to expand the healthcare services provided into Abaco as specialist physicians are able to review cases in ‘Real Time’ and provide examinations as if they were actually on location reviewing the patients themselves – the system is just that good,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis said health officials will expand the programme into a number of other Family Islands within the near future as they go about the business of bridging the healthcare system of The Bahamas one island at a time.

By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services