Continued education is essential for those professionals in Family Medicine in order for the health system to operate effectively, said Health Minister Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands, during the official opening of the first Family Medicine Conference, February 22, 2018. The conference, at Pelican Bay resort, is hosted by the Grand Bahama Health Services Family Medicine Continuing Education Committee in conjunction with the Family Medicine Department of Tufts University School of Medicine. The theme for the one-day event is “Family Medicine Best Practices 2018.” Dr. Sands noted, the idea of the conference came from a Bahamian physician living and working abroad who explored the challenges faced by physicians on Grand Bahama in accessing continuing education activities geared towards family medicine principles. As a result, the Family Medicine Department of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts agreed to partner with Grand Bahama Health Services (GBHS) by providing the majority of lectures for this conference.
Dr. Wayne Altman, chairman of the Family Medicine Department at Tufts, and his faculty were thanked by Minister Sands for partnering with Grand Bahama Health Services Family Medicine and Community Health team in this undertaking. He said, “This partnership, I am given to understand, will be continued and is expected to grow into new relationships and opportunities with Family Medicine Departments at other University Hospitals to sustain a biennial Family Medicine Conference on Grand Bahama. This speaks to the bright future of Family Medicine in the Northern Bahamas and encourages greater innovation among the leading practitioners in the field.” The Minister said, “Continuing medical education for Family Medicine and Primary Care Professionals is essential for an optimal functioning health system. These professionals serve on the front lines of healthcare. For many, they are the first point of contact with the healthcare system. They ensure patients get the right care, the right setting, by the most appropriate provider, and in a manner consistent with the patient’s desires and values. The evidence-based learning, skill-building, and training, which are pertinent to achieving and maintaining quality patient care must be ongoing in order for the primary care team to achieve the great value they bring to a healthcare system.
It is anticipated that this conference will enhance access to the same by local primary health care professionals. Participants, including physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, are promised a dynamic learning environment which will comprise didactic lectures, interactive sessions, and hands-on workshops. Continuing medical education credits will be awarded upon successful completion. “It is critical to note that the entire learning experience will have an incredible impact on our services delivered by the Community Health arm of the Public Health System. This is why I am excited to confirm that participation in this landmark conference is not limited to public sector and private sector clinicians and pharmacists in this room. Doctors and nurses in New Providence, San Salvador, Exuma and the Berry Islands and Bimini are now connected via a live stream for the duration of this conference and will also be eligible for Continuing Education credits.”
Minister Sands added, “Over the last five years there has been a constant move within Grand Bahama Health Services to recruit more Family Medicine trained physicians and other primary care specialists for the enhancement of primary care health care. This vigorous recruitment drive has undoubtedly improved the quality of care provided within the Grand Bahama community. It is to be noted that this is reflective of an intensifying focus on strengthening primary care services with a national focus on deployment of family medicine trained physicians here in Grand Bahama and across many of the Family Islands where its critical skill is essential for enhanced health outcomes. “Recognizing the need for enhanced capacity of suitably trained physicians to service New Providence and many Family Island communities in The Bahamas, the Family Medicine Department was introduced at Princess Margaret Hospital in 1985. Today, I count it as a mark of the success that over the years, the Department has evolved from one where 90 percent of its physicians were General Practitioners, many of whom had not pursued post-graduate specialties, to one where 98 percent of its physicians are Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Gynaecology or other medical specialists. This is largely due to the implementation of a Family Medicine training programme in 2002.”
Areas, where training has been added, include Diabetic Foot Care, in the absence of a permanent podiatrist in GBHS Community Health Services, as well as participation in the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Mental Health and Family Care Training Programme. “Indeed, here in Grand Bahama, the restructuring of Primary Care Services to enhance training and adopt a holistic approach has been accelerated by the rotation of fifth-year University of the West Indies (UWI) medical students and fourth year Family Medicine Programme residents through the Family Medicine Programme here in Grand Bahama. Similarly, it is expected that the knowledge attained from this conference will further hone the skills of our practicing Primary Healthcare professionals.”
In closing, the Minister said he hopes that the conference will provide the visiting healthcare professionals the opportunity to see and experience all that Grand Bahama has to offer.