$2.5B set aside for drugs, medical supplies
$12.8B has been budgeted for the health sector this year with capital expenditure projected at $3B and current expenditure projected at $9.8B and this year should see construction of a new Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) In-patient facility at a cost of $1.1B.

Making the 2009 Budget presentation to the National Assembly on Monday, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh said that this year government will continue to invest heavily in the construction, expansion, rehabilitation and maintenance of health buildings across the regions. Projects include the completion and operationalising of the Linden Hospital Complex costing $481m, and construction of the new GPH In-Patient Facility at a cost of $1.1B

Meantime, over $2.5 billion has been budgeted for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies this year. The finance minister said that these increased supplies will be complemented by the new inventory management system to be introduced initially at Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam and Suddie Hospitals, and to be rolled out subsequently to all regional hospitals by the end of the year, allowing for more efficient distribution and ready availability of drugs and medical supplies.

Additionally, he said, patient screening is expected to commence this week at the National Ophthalmology Hospital, which will become fully operational by the end of the first quarter and boasts state of the art equipment and a 50-bed inpatient capacity. The Centre will be able to conduct about 10,000 eye surgeries yearly, including cataract, glaucoma, and retina detachment, he stated.

The Finance Minister noted too that $32.3m is to be expended towards the completion of the National Psychiatric Hospital at Fort Canje, $18m for the rehabilitation of the Cheddi Jagan Dental Centre, $15m for the construction of a new building to house the health centre at Belle West, $5m for the refurbishing of the De Kinderen health centre, in addition to repairs to several doctors quarters.

The minister stated that this year, training efforts will be focused on further expansion and consolidation of the human resource skills base of the health sector. “This will result in the continued training of personnel at various levels, including doctors, medex, professional nurses, community health workers, pharmacy assistants, dental assistants, community dental therapists, dentex and rehabilitation practitioners. In 2009, the first cohort of 11 persons is expected to complete a dentex diploma programme, while another first will be made with the introduction of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Rehabilitation Services this year”, he asserted.

$190m has been allocated for the Basic Nutrition Programme and this is expected to see the continued registration of beneficiaries, manufacturing of sprinkles, and distribution of these nutritional supplements and food voucher coupons, benefiting 20,000 persons. This allocation will also facilitate continued capacity building of health care workers in nutrition education and develop a three-year nutrition strategy which will be integrated into the Maternal Child Health Programme. Complementing this programme, the national deworming exercise will be accelerated in 2009, said Dr. Singh.

This year, he stated, the mental health programme will be advanced in its new form of delivery at the community and primary care levels and will focus on the prevention and management of suicide, depression and substance abuse.

This programme will see persons being trained based on international standards and who will become certified to operate programmes of this nature to tackle the issues of depression and suicide, while the substance abuse programme is expected to train 150 health workers across the country, he said.

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