Dr. Arlington Lightbourne, President, Bahamas Wellness Health System, suggests adding other vaccine brands, increasing supply and making it easier to get the jab will reduce vaccine hesitancy, but vaccinations are not the only answer.
Leading doctor suggests COVID is here to stay, suggests broad-based recovery approach
Declaring the Bahamas health care system ‘in full-blown crisis mode,’ a leading doctor who spent nearly a decade in emergency care before entering private practice today offered a slate of suggestions he believes will relieve the immense toll COVID is taking on health care workers and lead to a faster path to a new state of normalcy.
“We are in crisis,” said Arlington Lightbourne, MD. “COVID is not simple and there is no such thing as a single bullet that will get us past this, but if we look at it through a holistic lens and that means a combination of solutions — vaccinations for those who most need them, acknowledging natural immunity when possible, various treatment methods and the kind of messaging we are using – I am optimistic we can begin the journey on the much-needed path to living with a new normal.”
First, says Dr. Lightbourne, president of Bahamas Wellness Health System with three clinics in Eleuthera and one in New Providence, must be acceptance of the reality that COVID, in one form or another, is not going away.
“We cannot continue going as we are because we are absolutely wearing out already exhausted front line and health care workers who are at the breaking point. If we take a holistic approach with the vaccine playing an important role, but not the only role, we can get past this crisis.”
“The ultimate end goal should be to reduce COVID virulence to the consequence of a common cold by preventing serious health outcomes, hospitalization and death,” said Dr. Lightbourne. “That means a renewed focus on reducing or eliminating the comorbidities, underlying conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes that make fighting the virus more difficult and reduce the chances of a fully successful outcome.”
Dr. Lightbourne, whose Eleuthera clinic is doing about 100 tests a day, says vaccine availability is a greater challenge than vaccine hesitancy.
“There is no question that vaccine hesitancy exists, but the reality is that we are using every bit of the vaccine that we get in. None is being thrown away so Bahamians are lining up,” he noted. “Our next best move is a push to get in more supply and expand the choices. Bahamians trust what Americans do so if Americans are using Moderna, or Pfizer or J&J, and we are only using AstraZeneca, Bahamians are asking ‘Why? Why can’t we have what they have?’ even though most of the world is using AstraZeneca.”
Once more choices are available, Bahamian citizens and residents should be able to get the vaccine as conveniently as possible, he suggests.
“There is no reason in the world why everyone should have to go to Loyola Hall or a certain church,” he said. “People who want to be vaccinated should be able to go to the pharmacy or a local clinic or the doctor of their choice. So long as all records are reported to the same central authority and confirmed, requiring people to drive or get transportation to a place that may be miles from where they live or work needs to be re-thought.”
The vaccination campaign needs a re-think, says the doctor says some persons do not need to be vaccinated because they are too young or they already have antibodies from having had COVID or believe that natural treatments will help them recover should they get it. Further, he said the messenger should not be government. There are treatment protocols used successfully in many trials around the world that should not be ignored as they appear to create the same ultimate end goal, he said.
“The decision whether to get vaccinated or not is still a personal one, a conversation that should be held between the individual and his or her doctor, rather than someone you don’t know in government or a stranger in a health care system making you feel bad or stupid or unpatriotic if you do not want to take the vaccine,” said Dr. Lightbourne. “People trust their doctors so we in the medical profession should make ourselves available, even by telemedicine, to have this conversation with our patients.
“Our hospitals and health care facilities are at beyond capacity mode. Our medical staff, especially frontline nurses, are exhausted and being asked to work double shifts and come back as soon as they can after a short rest. Patients who need care for non-COVID-related conditions are being put on hold,” he said. “We have many of the tools we need right at hand, let’s get the messaging, the choices and the availability on track for the new reality and national recovery.”