The opposition and government on Tuesday evening sparred over the handling of the country’s health sector, with APNU member Dr George Norton chiding the PPP/C administration for mismanagement of the health sector.
Dr Norton riled up members of the government side, including Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsaran, former Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Culture Minister Dr Frank Anthony, when he accused the government of providing inadequate information on the vaccines being given to girls to immunize them against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer. He said that the government had ignored documented cases of the ill-effects of the vaccines and the cries of concern expressed from various groups in the society thereby putting young girls at risk.
Norton criticized the government for not allowing public health facilities such as the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to perform abortions. He said that as long as this situation exists pregnant women who cannot afford to pay for abortions at private facilities will resort to dangerous means that would endanger their lives. Termination of pregnancies, he said, should be a woman’s right in Guyana.
The APNU MP also spoke at length on the inadequate facilities at the country’s main referral centre the Georgetown Public Hospital and at other difficulties experienced with staffing at other hospitals and health centres in the country.
Responding to Norton, PPP/C MP Dr Vishwa Mahadeo accused the APNU MP of only focusing on the negatives of the health sector in his presentation. He said that there were several positives all around the health sector particularly in the development of new facilities and services being offered.
One positive noted by Mahadeo was that there were no maternal deaths in Linden during last year. This, Mahadeo said, could be attributed to the improved supply of blood available at the hospital in the town.
The country had been rocked by a spate of maternal deaths at various hospitals during 2010.
Responding to the concerns raised by Norton about the by HPV vaccine, Mahadeo said that all the issues that were raised have been adequately addressed by the authorities. He said that many of the concerns were unfounded.
He said that in Region 6, parents have been asking for their daughters to be vaccinated. Mahadeo stressed that the vaccinations were safe and would be beneficial to the young girls in the long run.
The vaccines cover all four viruses, he said, including the two which are malignant, he said.
Meanwhile, Desmond Trotman, of the APNU, expressed his disappointment at the budget particularly at what had been promised to the working class, particularly as it related to increased wages and inadequate increases in the old age pension.
He said it was also an insult to increase the old age pension by a mere pittance while former President Bharrat Jagdeo was allegedly receiving a monthly pension of $3M per month.
Trotman also called for more oversight to be given to how money is spent, calling for the establishment of Budget Management Offices, particularly in the regions as he cited examples where money would have been allocated for particular projects within regions without them ever being completed.
Also making his contribution to the debate was PPP/C MP Kwame Gilbert who said that the budget was another step in Guyana’s journey of development.
The budget, he said, reflected progress that can be done in a sustainable way while noting that while the Opposition had been making several suggestions many of them were not sustainable.
APNU MP Keith Scott lamented that the Opposition was not invited to be part of the formulation of the budget and said he hoped that some of the suggestions being made in the debate would be taken onboard by the government.