Minister in the Ministry of Local Government, Norman Whittaker yesterday played up the number of health facilities in Region One (Barima/Waini) but he did not address what steps would be taken to prevent a recurrence of the gastro outbreak in recent weeks which left three children dead and hundreds of others sickened.
Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the national budget, Whittaker, as the Government’s Region One representative, took the opportunity to directly address criticisms made by the opposition.
Last month, after hundreds of gastroenteritis cases took hold of the North West District, Richard Allen, A Partnership for National Unity Member of Parliament, said that the regional administration and the Ministry of Health failed to take urgent action until after the second of three child deaths linked to the illness.
Whittaker said yesterday “that while we advance arguments that much is still to be done, and that there is still much to be done, we must also recognize that we have been able to make available free healthcare and free education.
Touching on the status of health care in the region, Whittaker said that that Region One has 41 health posts, three health centres, three cottage or district hospitals and one regional hospital. “This is the extent to which we have improved over the years,” said Whittaker who recalled that in 1978 there was only the Mabaruma Hospital, the Kaituma Hospital and the Matthews Ridge Hospital
“They did not have the kind of staffing at facilities that we have today.”
He said that today there are health facilities in all the villages as well as health workers who have been trained and who operate in all the villages.
He said that health services have been extended “so that in the areas of malaria treatment and microscopy there have been improvements, reflected in the fact that the morbidity and mortality rates have been declining for both of these.” Whittaker said that the government has been able to reach out into the riverine areas.
He shared that laboratories and x ray facilities have been established in the Mabaruma Hospital as well as the Port Kaituma hospital so that a significant number of people can access these facilities and be able to benefit from some amount of surgery being done in the region.
He said that patients from all around are screened at the respective district hospitals by the general practitioners and then transferred to Mabaruma where scheduled surgery for ailments such as gallstones, hernia etc are carried out during the course of the year. Added to this is the fact that the immunization programme continues and targets more and more areas. “The fact is more and more health care is being made available daily to a greater number of the population over a much wider spread,” Whittaker said.
Up to the third week of March, 529 cases of gastro had been reported in several parts of Region One and three children had died from the symptoms. Several teams were dispatched by the Health Ministry to the region along with drug supplies and water purification chemicals.