Women accessing the services at the Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) clinic — which seeks to prevent cervical cancer — at the Mahaicony Hospital will now do so in a more comfortable atmosphere.
This is after the Guyana Medical Relief (GMR), a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles, California, constructed a new building at a cost of $4 million for that purpose. The one-flat concrete air-conditioned structure which the GMR also furnished is located in the compound of the hospital. Chief Operating Officer of the GMR Sharir Chan handed over the building to Regional Health Officer (RHO) Dr Sri Devi Jagjit at a simple ceremony on Friday.
Chan, who visits Guyana often to overlook projects, told Stabroek News in an interview that Dr Jagjit was instrumental in the establishment of the clinic and the GMC thought it was a brilliant idea. He said they were supposed to build an incinerator but the RHO felt the clinic was “badly needed.” He related though, that the incinerator would be a project for next year and has already been included in the budget.
Dr Jagjit told this newspaper that the clinic was being held at a temporary unit in the old pharmacy which was earmarked to be the new dental unit. She pointed out that it was very inconvenient because “every time we have clinics we have to be moving furniture.”
She was pleased that the GMR and Chan organized and made the building possible. “It is like a dream come through. It is very beautiful and I don’t think any other place has such a nice VIA clinic,” she said while beaming with excitement.
The RHO said “in this way we would capture women [ages 25 to 55] and do screening and we can help to prevent cervical cancer.”
She is confident that the clinic would continue to be a success because women who receive good attention would “spread the message.”
According to her the clinic sees a total of 60 women per month where the “screening is done for pre-cancerous cells that can lead to cervical cancer.”
The women are counselled, given HIV/AIDS tests and are taught about the risk factors of VIA which include multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted diseases and smoking.
They are then examined and a speculum with vinegar is placed at the cervix. After one minute checks would be made for white lesions and if detected it means that the test is positive.
Dr Jagjit pointed out that it does not mean the women have cancer but said they have a risk of developing it in the next five to 10 years depending on their immune systems.
The clinic would offer treatment in the form of cryotherapy which can be done the same day and involves freezing the cervix. They would then have to return in one year and if negative, in five years’ time.
Meanwhile, Chan told this newspaper that GMR which works with another organization in California — Direct Relief International — was formed 26 years ago. It has also constructed a dental waiting area at the hospital. About three years ago the organization also built a new mortuary and equipped it with two two-drawer freezers, one of which was lent to the Fort Wellington Hospital.
The GMR also supports the St Joseph Mercy, Davis Memorial, Linden and the New Amsterdam hospitals and has been shipping medical supplies and equipment. Some of these facilities have also benefited from ultrasound machines.
The NGO consists of 300 members, the majority of whom are Guyanese and includes a retired member of the Los Angeles City Council, who also provides support.