Dr. Arlington Lightbourne with Bahamas Wellness’ Eleuthera Medical Center in Palmetto Point, during February 2022 oversaw the launch of the first endoscopy and colonoscopy services in Eleuthera. Throughout the course of the groundbreaking day, six patients would undergo the life-saving procedures – meant to discover pre-cancerous growths.
In an interview following the first case, Dr. Lightbourne shared, “We just finished the first procedure, and it has truly been successful from the perspective that we have been able to remove four polyps – and it is the polyp that becomes the cancer. So, removing the polyp is removing that risk of cancer. This is why this is such an important procedure.”
He continued, “Prior to now, the only thing we had available to us was doing a blood test in the stool – which is essentially diagnosing cancer, and at that point, usually it is too late. Otherwise you can do a CT colonoscopy or something called a barium enema. These things can detect some cancers, but again, they are looking for cancer.
“What a colonoscopy does is it actually looks for the pre-cancer. This means you can prevent colon cancer, and that’s why it is such an important tool. It’s one that you only need every eight to ten years, and yes there is a cost factor, but we have actually negotiated the prices here at the Eleuthera Medical Center to be less than what you would pay in Nassau. So, not only do we save you money in travel costs and accommodations, it is actually cheaper to have it done here at Eleuthera Medical Center. Also, our members take advantage of our ‘Care Now, Pay Later’ program, which means they are only required to come up with 50%-60% of the cost, and then we work out a payment plan. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for people to get the care that they need on-island without having to leave and deal with the stresses in Nassau. This is one part of some really exciting developments here.”
Further explaining the new service and its impact, Dr. Lightbourne added, “Today we have six patients booked, because we wanted to take it slowly. This is our first day. But we have the capacity to serve ten patients per day. The gastroenterologist, Dr. Flloyd Carter, has agreed to come once per month, and there is also an opportunity for us to have other gastroenterologists come in, so that we can possibly offer it as often as weekly, depending on the demand. Everybody over the age of 45, male or female, should have a colonoscopy every eight to ten years, depending on your risk. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. In women only breast cancer is more prevalent, and in men, only prostate cancer is more prevalent. The thing about colon cancer is that it is a slow-growing cancer, so if you catch it as a polyp, you can remove the risk. It’s truly saving lives, so it’s emotional for me to be able to bring this to the island as an addition to what we already bring, like advanced life support, emergency room services, and all the other services we have.”
One of the patients who had a colonoscopy done on the first Sunday of the service launch shared, “I had such confidence having been coming here for the past three years, and Dr. Lightbourne, and the fact that he would only bring the best over here. At the end of the day, in the Bahamas, amongst men it’s [colon cancer] a killer, and you can’t brush your teeth after you have cavities. So, you might as well get straight right off the bat.” When asked why he had wanted to get the procedure done, he candidly shared, “It’s just age, and I wanted to get out in front of it, and not have to play catch-up.”
According to Dr. Lightbourne the Eleuthera Medical Center has a number of other added services on tap to become available in the short term. He described, “In several weeks we intend to also launch our ambulance service. Why is that unique? Some may say we have ambulance services already. The ambulances that are here, albeit they are amazing people – they are volunteering their time, but they are not at the level of training as it relates to pre-hospital care that is standard in a first-world country. Most of them are first-responders or first-aiders and some of them may be EMTs. What we have are paramedics, the highest level of pre-hospital professionals, which means that they can provide most of the care that you would get in an emergency room – the IV medications, pain medication, heart resuscitation, intubations, and take that care to you in the field – thereby significantly increasing your chances of surviving. Not to mention there is no need to go and pickup a nurse. Our team is here and ready to go, so response times are also going to be better, faster. So this is again another milestone. While we only have one ambulance today, we intend over the next several months to invest in two additional ambulances, so we can have as much back-up as possible. Eleuthera is unique because it is a very long island, so it’s difficult to navigate how to manage this. We will probably only be able to go as far as Gregory Town in the north and Rock Sound in the south, but we will look to expand that capability to go beyond those limits.”
He continued, “We also have cardiology coming here. Why is that important? Because it means that patients with longstanding high blood pressure, diabetes and other issues can have echocardiagrams or stress tests, which can be used to determine if you are at risk for a heart attack. We can then put steps into place to circumvent that risk. We know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in men and women. As I mentioned, colon cancer is the second cause of cancer death, but the number one cause of all deaths in men and women is heart disease (heart attacks and strokes). An echocardiagram and stress test can identify your risk factors for that particular problem. So, in partnership with Doctor’s Hospital, we intend to launch that service over the next several weeks as well.”
The vision for expansion in 2022 will continue throughout the year said Dr. Lightbourne, “We are developing a new surgical wing, an operating theatre. We are also exploring the ability to admit patients overnight – that is going to come this year. We are looking at a CT Scan and a mammogram machine before May of this year. Lots of really exciting projects. We intend to make it very clear that there is no need in almost any case to go elsewhere, because healthcare at a very high quality is available right here in Eleuthera.”