HIGH ROCK, the Bahamas – A key health care clinic that had served hundreds of people on Grand Bahama was recommissioned today, after being destroyed by Hurricane Dorian almost two years ago. Staff will be able to begin seeing patients in the space next week.
“This will really be a big help,” said Abagail Mosote, a nurse who works at the clinic.
Mosote, along with her colleagues, had been forced to improvise in the wake of the devastating hurricane, which damaged or destroyed just about every single home in High Rock, a small town on the southern coast of the island. Health care providers treated patients in tents and small temporary structures as well as by traveling to their homes.
The clinic has added exam rooms, bringing the total to four, and also has an on-site pharmacy as well as the capacity for dentistry, psychiatric, and geriatric care.
Beyond the benefits to local patients, Cherylyn Bain, the principal nursing officer of the Grand Bahama Health Services for 19 years, said the clinic, “will bring team cohesiveness,” as many providers were previously working separately and in their own individual spaces.
The construction of the new High Rock Clinic, funded by Direct Relief, consisted of seven individual units which were delivered from the U.S., and assembled on site. The clinic’s rooms are also outfitted with all-new equipment and supplies. The clinic is solar-powered, and plans to generate enough energy to sell a portion to the local power company.
“We mark a significant milestone on its road to recovery,” said Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis in remarks during the clinic’s recommissioning ceremony.
“Covid-19 presented complex challenges to an already stressed Grand Bahama Health Service, with vital hospital and outpatient services decanted to temporary locations, many staff relocated, pending the completion of repair and reconstruction works. With the loss of essential medical and diagnostic equipment, the only constant in the ever-changing pandemic environment has been the dedication of the men and women of the Grand Bahama Health services to provide quality healthcare,” he said.
The Road to Recommissioning
Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane on record to hit the Bahamas, left nothing but destruction and debris in its wake when it made landfall on September 1st, 2019. Entire towns disappeared, High Rock, located on the eastern end of Grand Bahama, being one of them.
The community was rendered unrecognizable after the ocean surged as high as some of the walls that were left standing.
The High Rock Clinic, when operational, provided care to patients living in the surrounding 300-person community, and stood between Mclean’s Town Clinic (23 miles away) and Rand Memorial Hospital (28 miles away) in Freeport.
When Dorian reached Grand Bahama, Mosote was dispatched to provide care in a shelter, located in a local schoolhouse. She assisted over 100 East-End citizens within the shelter, as the storm ravaged their homes, and destroyed the clinic that many had been inside just days before.
Bain was part of the Command Center that was set up within Rand Memorial Hospital in preparation for the storm. She was in constant communication with nurses caring for those in shelters as Dorian made landfall, including with Mosote.
“It was challenging. Right after the hurricane, we didn’t have a clinic,” Mosote explained, when detailing life after the storm.
“The entire health structure of the eastern end was displaced,” added Ms. Bain. 2,000 citizens benefit from the healthcare provided by eastern-end healthcare workers and nurses, and this population was in need of a quick solution.
“[With] some help from IMC (the International Medical Corps), we were given tents. We were seeing patients under the tent, and that lasted for almost a year.”
Mosote then went on to describe the current site of the clinic, after East-End providers needed to find an alternative to tents due to weather conditions and impending future hurricane gusts. Local healthcare providers used temporary healthcare pods to see patients, again donated by IMC.
“Aside from that [the current site], we travel to five different clinics in the east,” explained Mosote. The staff in this area is mobile, traveling to individuals who may not be able to get into a clinic. Prior to Dorian, the nurses would travel as far as Sweetings Cay, a cay at the tip of the island.
Direct Relief’s initial response to Hurricane Dorian included a shipment of 22 pallets of vital medicines and equipment, valued at $400,000. This shipment, however, became the introduction to one of Direct Relief’s largest natural disaster response efforts. To date, since Hurricane Dorian, Direct Relief has received $8.4 million for the Bahamas, of which 85% has already been committed, despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic. Projects have included assistance in the construction and rehabilitation of multiple clinics as well as $7.1 million worth of medications and healthcare supplies.
This influx of donations allowed Direct Relief to allocate money to projects such as High Rock Clinic, as well as providing assistance in the renovation and re-establishment of numerous other clinics on Grand Bahamas and other islands. One such project, Rand Memorial Hospital on Grand Bahama, received an urgent care operating theater, funded by Direct Relief after the hospital’s surgical wing was forced to close due to Dorian. The organization also provided funding for the hospital’s renovation of its ICU wing, after the hospital was forced to close that portion of the building due to floodwaters and structural damage.
The modular OR provided a sterile space – a necessity after the staff was left to work in field tents when their building became uninhabitable. This module also became imperative when Covid-19 reached the island, allowing for separation from infected patients.
Direct Relief has supported Rand Memorial Hospital in grant funding for a range of projects identified as top priorities by the nation’s Ministry of Health, including the refurbishment of nearly 150 pieces of essential medical equipment that were damaged by Hurricane Dorian. Direct Relief is also supporting the repair of five existing facilities and has donated more than 100 tons of medical aid.
The organization has recently finished numerous other clinic renovations in The Bahamas, including The Mclean’s Town Clinic. On the far-end Eastern of Grand Bahama, Mclean’s Town was also in need of new healthcare infrastructure after Dorian. Direct Relief funded the renovation of its clinic, replaced all of the medical equipment and supplies, and will soon be installing solar panels for resilient energy.
“This is what progress looks like,” said Minnis.