There is a need for more Occupational Therapists in the country

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Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands said that he was advised that The Bahamas is limited by the fact that it has only nine Occupational Therapists and three Occupational Therapy Assistants.  “According to the World Health Organization, this number is insufficient to service our residents,” Dr. Sands said at the Opening Ceremony of Occupational Therapy Month at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, Thursday, April 5, 2018. “However, even with these constrained numbers, Occupational Therapists are providing unselfish and dedicated health care services in our public institutions, working with patients to achieve optimum functionality and improved quality of life.

Dr. Sands said the shortfall of trained and qualified Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants requires greater emphasis on health development. “In the medium to long-term, we need to find the means to consistently attract persons to this profession. This is not only a national challenge but a global one.” He said while many in this field may seem invisible to the public, for those in the healthcare, the Occupational Therapist is an unsung hero. Dr. Sands commended Occupational Therapists for their unwavering support and service they continue to give patients despite the challenges they face. “There is no doubt that in the short term we will have to consider the allocation of resources or the restructuring of services to ensure that the needs of patients are met.  Bottom line, we can no longer opt out of addressing this critical need.”

He said the field of Occupational Therapy is complex and encompasses a wide array of treatment approaches.  The Health Minister also urged all Occupational Therapists to pursue, as much as possible, opportunities for continued education and professional development in order to stay on the leading edge of their field of practice.  “Likewise, I encourage our public hospital institutions to embrace opportunities for advanced training for Occupational Therapy staff and indeed for all of the Allied Health Professions to ensure that we are consistently improving our standards of care.” He explained that Occupational Therapy is defined as “the therapeutic use of everyday life activities (occupations) with individuals or groups for the purpose of enhancing or enabling participation in roles, habits, and routines in the home, school, workplace, community, and other settings.”

Dr. Sands said within occupational therapy, keen attention is placed on relationships, context, and engagement invaluable occupations to facilitate change or growth within the client’s factors – body functions, cognitive functions, value beliefs, and spirituality. He added, “Occupational Therapy also manages how the environment affects performance skills in the areas of motor, sensory, cognitive, and social factors, which is imperative for successful participation.” Dr. Sands explained that as a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, he has frequently seen how a person’s life can be interrupted by sudden illness or a catastrophic injury, which even after all skilled medical interventions are complete, continues to affect an individual’s overall performance in his or her daily activities and as a result changes his or her life forever.  “Occupational Therapy can make a difference in these circumstances, helping restore a measure of independence, wholeness, and quality of life.”

He said Occupational Therapy is also relevant in the areas of health promotion, and prevention of illness or disabilities among at-risk individuals.  “An individual’s overall health and well-being is of paramount importance to his or her positive contributions to society; and the Government of The Bahamas, through my Ministry, is mandated to ensure the protection, promotion of health to all people by providing access to comprehensive, preventive, quality health care, and by extension rehabilitative care.” Dr. Sands said, “To our Occupational Therapists, I charge you as champions of your profession as you continue to celebrate this month, to inform, and bring greater awareness of your profession to audiences across our country. “Even as you motivate and inspire those you provide care to, you must also inspire persons in the wider community to consider Occupational Therapy as a profession.”  He said, “Consider joining with other rehabilitative professions to create social media groups for young Bahamians who might have an interest in the field where you can post or blog about your successes, achievements and those aspects of Occupational Therapy the public should be aware of.”

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