Tele-dermatology Clinic Launched, System to Expand ICU Services in Future

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Specialist dermatologist Dr. Herbert Olander (seated) examines a patient at the Marsh Harbour Clinic in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, during the launch of the tele-dermatology clinic between the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Marsh Harbour Clinic.

Nassau, The Bahamas – Officials at the Princess Margaret Hospital were ecstatic about the successful launch of the Tele-dermatology clinic between New providence and Marsh Harbour, Abaco Friday, just one week after Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis promised residents of Abaco that the clinic would come on stream.

Headed by specialist dermatologist Dr. Herbert Olander, the Tele-dermatology clinic will allow dermatologists at the Princess Margaret Hospital in New Providence to liaise with doctors at the Marsh Harbour Clinic to assess, examine and treat patients with skin disorders in Abaco – negating the need for travel to New Providence for consultations in many cases.

Dr. Minnis said the system will be expanded to Andros and Inagua, in that order, in the very near future.

“This is an excellent move,” Dr. Olander said. “Tele-medicine is an invaluable technology and is something that we need in this archipelago because our islands are so scattered and we certainly don’t have the dermatologists to be stationed in each island.

“The establishment of this clinic between New Providence and Abaco, and subsequently between New Providence, Andros and Inagua and the other islands, will allow us to provide specialist dermatology care to Bahamians throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” Dr. Olander added.

Dr. Minnis said health officials are working to expand the tele-medicine programme to further address the specialised care of critically ill persons in the Family Islands, particularly those in need of the kind of specialised care offered in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

The Health Minister said the expansion of ICU services to the Family Islands via tele-medicine and video-conferencing, will constitute a major breakthrough in the delivery of essential and quality healthcare to all segments of The Bahamas, as the system will allow ICU doctors, nurses and medical personnel to monitor and treat critically ill persons in those islands “as if they were in the Intensive Care Unit here in New Providence”.

“For example, if a patient needed complete monitoring insofar as the ICU is concerned, we can have that patient connected to the Intensive Care Unit in New Providence and be monitored by our physicians and medical teams here just as if they were in the ICU,” Dr. Minnis said.

“Having that kind of capability will not only improve or expand our bed capacity, but means that Abaco can now be an arm of New Providence ICU and so can Inagua and Andros once the systems are up and running in those islands.

“The establishment of tele-medicine in The Bahamas has, and will go, a long way in ensuring that Bahamians from all over the Commonwealth have access to the same kind of quality healthcare as those residents in New Providence and/or Grand Bahama,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis said the establishment of the tele-dermatology and tele-paediatrics clinics at the Marsh Harbour Clinic, will also result in savings for residents of Abaco.

“If these patients had to fly into New Providence for consultation, it would have cost them airfare and ground transportation and if by chance the clinic was cancelled, it would have meant a wasted trip,” Dr. Minnis said. “

“But by having Dr. Olander sit here and examine them as if they were in New Providence, it saves them travel time and money.”

Dr. Olander said the tele-medicine equipment provides dermatologists with the ability to “hear the patient’s complaint first hand” which he says plays a key role in their management and treatment.

“This allows us in New Providence to get a good history of the patient because we can actually talk to the patient in addition to seeing the patient and making notes simultaneously,” he added.

Friday’s launch of the tele-dermatology clinic follows the establishment of the tele-medicine programme and the tele-paediatrics clinic between the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Marsh Harbour Clinic.

Dr. Minnis said last week that a tele-ambulatory programme will be launched in New Providence in short order with at least one Emergency Medical Service vehicle (Princess Margaret Hospital) being outfitted with tele-medicine capability in the initial stage.

This, he said, will play a major role in expanding critical care to victims of traumatic events such as shootings, knifings and road traffic crashes – at the scene as Emergency Medicine Physicians at the Accident and Emergency Department of the Princess Margaret Hospital, led by Dr. Colin Bullard, an Emergency Medicine Specialist and Coordinator of the Tele-medicine Programme – will be able to assess, diagnose and commence treatment of trauma patients on site via video-conferencing.

Dr. Minnis said this capability will not only significantly reduce the time between trauma and treatment, but will also have a domino effect on the management of trauma and other cases at the Princess Margaret Hospital as increased demand for bed space is one of the negatives associated with increased trauma cases.

The Tele-ambulatory service is part of a wide-scale initiative by officials of the Ministry of Health, the Department of Public Health and the Public Hospitals Authority to address the treatment of the rising number of trauma cases either presenting, or being transported to, the Accident and Emergency Department of the Princess Margaret Hospital.