A NEW government never gets long before the size of the task at hand becomes clear – and that has perhaps never been more true than in the middle of this pandemic.
The new Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Michael Darville, has barely had time to kick the tyres to see how roadworthy our health system is, but he’s already appreciating that one of the first things the country needs is funds for the fight against COVID.
“My initial assessment is we have a lot of work to do and there’s definitely a need for emergency funding,” said Dr Darville.
Of course, that money has to come from somewhere and the news in yesterday’s Tribune that the country’s debt now exceeds the value of the economy means it’s not going to be easy to find that money.
Dr Darville added that some bills are outstanding, saying: “We have some of our suppliers as well as individuals involved in the fight who need to be paid and the Prime Minister has instructed me to find out exactly what is happening on the ground and I have done that.”
Next up for Dr Darville is a visit to Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre to see the situation there before a tour of the island clinics.
A lot of this information should, ideally, be ready and waiting for the new minister as part of the handover of power, but Dr Darville is doing the right thing by seeing things for himself.
Some of this he should have been aware of, however. He says that “everywhere we go, we realise that our staff are overworked. Some of them are extremely exhausted and we find shortages with our nurses, sometimes with our physicians as well as our other healthcare professionals.”
The Tribune has catalogued the problems facing our healthcare system, and how overwhelmed staff are in the face of COVID-19 – how does the new Health Minister not know this too?
He also talks of the need for a new hospital – when medics have said previously that we almost need a hospital for COVID alone.
The scale of this problem should by now still be shocking, yet not surprising. Every day, the problems have been catalogued in the media, and in the daily count that has seen more and more cases and deaths added to the nation’s total.
Is more funding needed? Absolutely. The question is, where is the government going to find that money? There is no easy answer here – and we hope our new leaders very quickly grasp exactly how difficult the situation is that we face.
Two words have been on people’s lips to describe the new Cabinet of The Bahamas. “Gussie Mae”, says FNM chairman Carl Culmer to describe the size of the Cabinet, bulging with 22 ministers and seven MPs as Parliamentary Secretaries on top. There are now as many PLP MPs appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries as the FNM has MPs full stop.
“Gussie Mae”, says Tribune columnist Naughty as he talks of how Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has “many mouths to feed” in his party.
Even on this page, cartoonist Jamaal Rolle portrays the “Gussie Mae” Cabinet weighing in.
For all the talk about public finances with the size of the debt, the first impression looking at the size of the Cabinet is that rather than cutting back, we’re starting off by spending more.
It might be hard to justify to public sector workers if they turn around and start cutting jobs having added more to the salary bill at the top end.
Mr Davis says he needs all hands on deck as he defends the size of the Cabinet. Well, Mr Davis, we’ll be keeping a close watch on that deck. Those chosen for the posts need to show they’re earning their money.
When funds are desperately needed on the front line, and the new government planning to cut the rate of VAT, it does raise concerns about the prospect of reducing the nation’s mammoth debt. Over to you, new ministers, show us all you’re worth your money.