NASSAU, Bahamas — The establishment of the Health Diagnostic Unit at Her Majesty’s Prison will “considerably expand” the current healthcare capacity and services provided to inmates and staff at the penal institution, Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest said Thursday.
Minister Turnquest added that the expanded services should help to reduce the risks associated with transferring inmates to the Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment.
He noted that transportation of inmates – particularly those sentenced for violent crimes- to and from Her Majesty’s Prison to the Princess Margaret Hospital, has “no doubt introduced an element of risk” in the past.
The National Security Minister said while it has been commendable that prison officials – in cooperation with other branches of the country’s security forces – have been able to accomplish such transfers without undue alarm or security concern to the Bahamian public, having a facility onsite at the penal institution will reduce those risks even further.
“It is also a human resource challenge for the Prison to transfer inmates on referral to and from prison to the hospital (as) prison officers must be diverted from regular security and other duties to escort inmates, and remain with them for the duration of their treatment in hospital,” Mr. Turnquest said.
“Facts and figures indicate that a significant number of inmates are annually referred to the Princess Margaret Hospital,” Mr. Turnquest continued. “In 2008 for example, 1,129 inmates were transferred. The records further show that 620 or 55 percent of all inmates referred required ECG, X-Ray and/or ultrasound services.
“The establishment of the Health Diagnostic Unit will also ensure that prison staff, its inmates and those persons on remand at the facility, no longer have to be taken to the Maximum Security Medical Facility for health care matters,” Mr. Turnquest added.
Minister Turnquest said the Diagnostic Unit will include X-Ray, Laboratory, ECG/UltraSound and Pharmacy facilities and will allow for the early diagnosis of illnesses which he said is not only critical to the good health of the inmates, but the entire prison population, including staff.
“The United Nations Manual on Human Rights Training for Prison Officials (2005) takes up this issue to make the point that conditions of healthcare in prisons also affect public health outside of the prison,” Mr. Turnquest said.
“Prison staff, as well as visitors, come and go between the prison and the community and could well make prison health problems, community health problems.”
Mr. Turnquest said the UN manual further emphasizes that it is in the best interest of countries to do all that is practicable to ensure that those inmates, upon release from the penal institutions, are “re-integrated into our communities in the best possible health.”
“The Health Diagnostic Unit will help to meet this objective,” he said. “The Government has made, and is keeping, its commitment to prison reform and in particular, to upgrade and expand rehabilitative programmes at Her Majesty’s Prison and to improve the work and skills training programmes available to inmates.
“Maintaining good health is important to accomplishing this objective,” Mr. Turnquest added.
The National Security Minister said officials at his ministry ‘expect” that prison officials will work collaboratively with the Ministry of Health to continue to rationalize and improve healthcare services within the prison system for inmates, those on remand and staff.
“I confirm that the Government will continue to support such initiatives because of our firm conviction that good healthcare – such as what the new Health Diagnostic Unit will provide – is an indispensable element of a well-functioning, reformed, correctional facility,” Mr. Turnquest added.
Minister of State for Social Development, the Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner, performs the ceremonial ribbon-cutting during the official opening of the Health Diagnostic Unit at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill on Thursday, January 29, 2009. Also pictured from left are: Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis; Minister of National Security, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest and Prison Superintendent, Dr. Elliston Rahming. Prison Deputy Superintendent Charles Rolle is pictured at back. (BIS Photo: Patrick Hanna)
Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis tours the pharmacy section of the new Health Diagnostic Unit which was officially opened Thursday, January 29, 2009 at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill. Dr. Minnis was joined by Pharmacist Sarah Duwalis. (BIS Photo: Patrick Hanna)
Minister of National Security, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest delivers the keynote address at the opening of the Health Diagnostic Unit Thursday, January 29, 2009 at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)