The United States always seem like the best option for medical care. This week I interviewed a doctor here in the Bahamas and the answers to some of the questions left me thinking that maybe the Bahamas has better medical care than the US. I know it may be a huge thing saying that, but I have some evidence.
I recently interviewed – Dr. Melanie Cooper at Exuma Medical Clinic and found some interesting differences between going to the doctor at home compared to the Bahamas:
Mix of public and private clinics – In the US everyone is competing. Doctors’ offices compete with other doctor offices, fast food restaurants compete with other fast food restaurants. Here in Georgetown Bahamas, it’s different as it is part of their culture to help each other.
There are two types of clinics here private and public. If you don’t have money, then go to the public clinic and if you have more specific needs then go to the private one. Each one offers great medical care and they work together to help their patients.
More affordable – It is cheaper to see the doctor here and a lot cheaper for prescriptions. A three-hundred-dollar prescription in the US is just twenty dollars here.
The clinics here also won’t turn you down if you can’t pay for the price of an appointment, you just pay what you can afford. In both types of clinics children and elderly visits are free and adult appointments usually cost about eighty dollars.
Get in right away to see the doctor – To schedule a doctor’s appointment you don’t have to wait weeks in advance, all you have to do is call ahead or just show up and you will be with the doctor in ten minutes. There are also some islands out here that don’t have local doctors, but the doctors will fly out at least once a month to go do checkups with everyone in town.
Each community looks after their own – Sometimes the people on other islands get sick and can’t fly to Georgetown, so everyone in the community will make sure that person is well supplied and well fed until the doctor comes to see them.
Improving all the time - One of the questions I asked Dr. Cooper was: “If you could add anything to this clinic what it would be?” Since the clinic was really new and they just opened in September she had a lot of things on the list. She wanted a pharmacy in the building so a client could leave with everything they needed. For blood tests they have to send it on a plane to Nassau and wait, to save time she wanted a local lab to get results in minutes.
It isn’t all "Better in the Bahamas" though as they are facing challenges such as:
Keeping Doctors- It's sadly not everyone’s dream to be a doctor in the Bahamas and right now they are facing some real problems, the Bahamas are losing doctors and nurses. The doctors and nurses are traveling to the states for jobs that pay higher. [i]
Lifestyle Changes- The Bahama Lifestyle has changed tremendously since the 1970’s. Another interesting question I asked Dr. Cooper was what is the biggest health care problem facing the Bahamas? The answer was obesity. They eat to many fried foods and sugary drinks according to her. In the 1970s everyone walked everywhere and ate what they grew and caught. Now people eat whatever the latest fast food restaurant has to offer and drive, instead of walk, everywhere. The Bahamas is the highest obesity rate in the Caribbean and Latin America.[ii]
Food Supply- I thought that reef fish poisoning would be a lot more common here but apparently only a few people have come in to the clinic with this problem. Reef fish poisoning is when someone eats a fish that lives on the reef like a barracuda. The barracuda can get ciguatera from eating the smaller reef fish. This is a growing problem here in the Bahamas. [iii]
Visitors– When tourists visit they can bring viruses and bacteria the Bahamians aren’t used to so a lot of them get sick with a cold or the flu every season.
To summarize, the Bahamas has great health care at reasonable prices, so you won’t go bankrupt when you are sick. Everyone has to exercise more and eat heather but, in the Bahamas, it is a huge problem with 69% of the population being overweight. Since their community is so strong I am sure that they will overcome this problem together.