‘PEOPLE ARE DYING IN DROVES’ – SANDS: Former minister says change our policy or accept frequent deaths

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Tribune Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

AS people continue to die in “droves” painting an “ugly” picture of The Bahamas’ COVID-19 fatality rate, a senior physician says there continues to be a disconnect between the public’s perception of the virus’ implications and the challenges it has caused in healthcare.

Former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands told The Tribune yesterday it is now time for Bahamians to either prepare to accept frequent deaths or welcome a dramatic change in policy and behaviour.

He spoke to The Tribune the day after the Ministry of Health in its October 10 dashboard confirmed the COVID-19 death toll at 605.

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Forty-eight virus related deaths were reported in data released by the Ministry of Health between October 3 and October 10.

Dr Sands said the situation as it stands has outpaced the volume of available resources in the public healthcare system.

“I see a dramatic disconnect between what is happening in the clinical arena and what the public’s perception seems to be,” Dr Sands said.

“It is almost as if they’ve become numb to it. Literally people are dying in droves. The numbers tell a horrible story.

“But the spike that we are having in deaths is ugly relative to the rest of the world and we do not have the critical care nursing capacity to manage what’s happening in the hospital. That is a categorical statement. That’s not an opinion,” he said.

“Where we are right now, unless we are prepared to accept a certain level of scheduled deaths, we’re going to need to modify dramatically policy and our behaviour.

“Either we are going to accept that a number of us are going to die because of the number of ventilators that we have, the number of critical care nurses we have, the number of beds that we can’t staff or we’re going to make changes so that we bring the number of new cases of COVID in line with what we’re able to manage safely and adequately.”

Yesterday,  Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville said he doesn’t believe additional COVID-19 restrictions are necessary at this time as infection rates are currently “going down.”

However, he said if there is a need to add more measures, the government will not hesitate to do so.

“Well, you know we are listening to what the former minister is saying and we’re taking it into consideration. We feel at this particular time that we are okay to the point that we don’t need to bring restrictions back to where they are, but I can say this much, we are watching this very closely and in the event that we feel that we need to execute more measures we will,” the health minister added.

There were 379 virus cases last week and the week before saw 537 infections confirmed.

This comes as health officials recorded another 32 cases Monday pushing the nation’s confirmed coronavirus case count to 21,723.

Dr Sands said although the number of confirmed cases appear to be trending downward, Bahamians seem not to “get it” that a surge is ongoing.

“I don’t think as a country that we get it that we’re still in the middle of an ugly surge of COVID.

“It eased up a little bit and now it’s coming back and so when I speak about the healthcare system as the canaries in the mine, you can get a pretty good feel of what’s coming based on who’s showing up in the emergency room.”

He praised new vaccination numbers, but said it was regrettable that the country did not have the supply to sustain additional vaccines at this time.

The latest vaccine tracker says 115,153 people have reached full inoculation, while 238,512 have received at least one vaccine dose.

“We are on a good clip. The problem is that we don’t have the doses to sustain this clip and obviously we need additional doses of AstraZeneca, and it would be nice to get the next tranche of Pfizer.”

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health said that due to diminishing numbers of Pfizer vaccine, first doses will no longer be offered effective October 18.

On Monday, officials said effective October 23, second doses of AstraZeneca vaccines will not be offered. However, the Pfizer vaccine will be made available as a second dose instead.

Additional vaccines are expected to arrive in the country early next month.