The insufficiently-resourc-ed Aishalton District Hospital was among the issues of concern raised by several toshaos from the South and South Central districts of the Rupununi when they met with government officials earlier this week in Georgetown.
The leaders included Paulinus Albert, chairman of the South and South Central District Toshaos Council; Gregory Thomas, toshao of Sawariwau; Vibert Ignace, toshao of Shulinab; Gregory David, toshao of Katoonarib; as well as Patrick Gomes, councillor of Maruranau and Nicholas Fredericks, a councillor of Shulinab.
Fredericks related that they met Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran and raised the issue of the lack of appropriate equipment and staff at the Aishalton District Hospital. He related that the hospital has one doctor and “very little if any equipment….” He said that the issue of dedicated means of transport for the hospital for patients was also raised. He noted that they also proposed that two Community Health Workers (CHWs) be employed in the bigger villages and for improved communication for patients referred to Brazil and Georgetown.
Fredericks explained that many times, patients are left to fend on their own and there is no communication between them and their families back home. “Most times they are just left in the Amerindian Hostel (in Georgetown) and have to find their own way back to their homes,” he said.
The community leader said the response from the minister was that he would designate a staff member to go and speak to the management of the Hostel and also indicated that funds could be made available to send recovered patients back home and his ministry could collaborate with the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs on this matter.
In terms of transportation, Fredericks reported, the minister said it was the responsibility of the communities to ensure that transportation is budgeted for in the regional budget and they should push for this. As it relates to more CHWs for the communities, Fredericks said that the minister recommended that this be applied to the bigger villages. They leaders also said that they were told that a team from the ministry visited the Aishalton Hospital last November to do an assessment and the report will be shared with them.
Another matter raised related to the welfare of students of the Sand Creek Secondary School. According to the leaders, for some time now, students were suffering from seizures and throwing “fits” and this has not abated and they wanted a psychiatric team to go and observe and analyse the situation. They said that the children are being affected because they miss school for weeks and some parents are pulling their children out of school. There is a similar occurrence at the Aishalton Secondary School. Fredericks said the minister told them that it is a common occurrence in situations where children are confined to an area where there is lots of pressure and tension.
The minister also promised to make available water purification tablets after the matter of the drought was raised.
The indigenous leaders also met Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn. Among the issues raised was the quality of work being executed and the fact that contractors do not interact with and seek the views of communities in relation to projects. The leaders pointed out that they would have knowledge of the area and, for example, flood patterns and so would be able to point out where, for example, culverts can be sited.
The leaders related that Benn indicated that he was aware of the issues and said he would be willing to attend a meeting of the District Toshaos Council to speak on the matters.
An issue raised by David was that of large trucks transporting excavators over the Rupununi River Bridge at Katoonarib. A few years ago, a section of this bridge had collapsed under the weight on an excavator. It has since been repaired but trucks and excavators continue to utilise it to cross the Rupununi River and David noted that it was not built for the weight it is being subjected to. “They carrying a low-bed plus an excavator on top,” he observed.
He said that they want vehicles above a certain size and weight to be prevented from crossing the bridge.
It was noted that at least four pillars of the bridge are crumbing and, according to David, “is only the steel keeping it up.” They reported that Benn said that he is aware of the matter and would be going to check on it himself.
The issue of contractors doing substandard work and not being penalized was raised and it was noted that for example, the approaches to culverts had to be redone and this was “repetition of works that should have been done properly in the first place.” In one instance, it was noted that there was one culvert built but the approach had washed away and now, vehicles go around it instead.
The toshaos also engaged the ministries of Agriculture, Amerindian Affairs, Human Services and Natural Resources and the Environment. In terms of the Agriculture Ministry, the dry spell and how it will impact farmers as well as what can be done to alleviate issues that will arise, was discussed. According to the leaders, they were urged to build their peoples’ capacity and harvest rainwater as well as build dams across creeks and dig deep wells. The Office of Climate Change, the leaders said, rather than provide any answers, instead asked them about their strategies for coping with the dry spell.
The leaders said the fact that there was only one probation officer in the entire Region Nine was raised and they recommended and it was agreed that another should be stationed in the region.