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I had written a letter asking that health services in Region 6, home of many Indo-Guyanese supporters of the PPP, be boosted dramatically where each hospital can be a one-stop shopping center, not a referral center. For too long, rural folks have had to go from facility to facility, spending much time and money to go to the townships for better services. This is an inherently inequitable system that must be changed quickly. The Region 6 authorities had replied to indicate essentially that all is well. Then there was an article “Gov’t, Opposition Parliamentarians laud health sector enhancements in Reg. 6,” (NR, Jul 21, 2022). The Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services led by its chairman, former PNC Minister of Health Dr. Karen Cummings lauded massive improvements in the health sector across Region Six (East Berbice – Corentyne), the article stated.
Now comes this independent damning report from the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) that is about to provide a loan of US$160 million for the repair of three hospitals including the New Amsterdam Hospital. The headline was, “IDB finds New Amsterdam Hospital in shocking state,” (KN, Aug 21, 2022). The surgical room has mould and fungus-infested walls, the hospital complex is without proper working toilets, patients are being treated in stockroom, equipment is outdated, and structures are dilapidated with many years of no upgrades and maintenance, etc., according to the IDB report. If New Amsterdam is bad, Port Mourant and Skeldon are likely to be worst. (My Dad died at the New Amsterdam Hospital in 1974 at age 46 leaving 12 children behind. His Doctor was hosting the visiting Pakistani Cricket team a few days, so he was not around to provide care).
During the Coalition’s time in 2015-2020, when Dr. Sharma was no longer there, there were some very incompetent folks who were placed there and things declined rapidly. Dr. Sharma is back, and is the Regional Health Officer. She is a good lady, and I remember she was very kind in helping my aunt who was suffering from a stroke. The Region 6 Chairman, Mr. Armogan, is a very decent gentleman too, who would have done very well as a Regional Minister. Dr. Anthony is a good man, as well as former Health Minister Dr. Ramsammy. The other former Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri is also at the Ministry. I hope Dr. Mahadeo too is looking out for Berbice. So, with three Ministers at the Ministry of Health, I have raised the bar of expectations that we can transform the health sector. With so much talent there, this should be the best Ministry. Region 6 is poised to become better in its Health Services.
I was wondering if the US$160 million loan we are getting could build some new hospitals. US$160 million just to do some upgrades seems like a lot of money for repair work. In fact, the high price tags for infrastructural and capital works across the country seem quite excessive these days. I am glad to see bids for construction of a new Outpatient Building at the Port Mourant Hospital, and renovation of the Patient Ward at the Mibicuri Hospital in Black Bush Polder. If we improve education and health services in Black Bush Polder, that would help with retention of its people there. They would not hustle to move out. The majority of Region 6 people live closer to Lower/Central and Upper Corentyne, away from New Amsterdam, and I hope there is a bigger plan for making the Port Mourant Hospital to be a high-quality institution with varied services on the one-stop shopping model. This must include all lab services and dialysis centers.
Regarding the filling of patients’ medicine prescriptions, if it is true that only 85-90% of prescriptions are filled based on availability of medicines, I call on the Government to issue “prescription vouchers” in cases where the hospital or village clinics don’t have the medicines. We must provide prescription vouchers to our people when medicines are unavailable, “Because We Care.” We allow oil companies to ship away our wealth and not pay taxes, while our people suffer so much. Let’s put our people first!
Dr. Jerry Jailall