The shortage of drugs and other medical supplies at hospitals, health centres and health posts throughout Region Two were highlighted last week during a visit by the parliamentary sectoral committee on social services.
The committee found that the Suddie Public Hospital, which it visited on Thursday, is experiencing drug shortages, which also makes it difficult for the Oscar Joseph District Hospital to access pharmaceutical drugs, since it is heavily dependent on the Public Hospital.
The shelves at both hospitals are almost empty.
In addition, health centres, especially in the Pomeroon River, are not being provided with medication, forcing residents to travel long distances to the Charity Hospital, where they are then told that drugs are not available and they would need to make purchases elsewhere.
According to committee chairperson Dr. Vindyha Persaud, the team made the visit to assess the situation in the region. “We are here to see what you have, what you don’t have and what you want and how we can help to make things go better. We are here so we can make recommendations in Parliament so that this hospital can be the best district hospital,” she informed during a visit to the Oscar Joseph District Hospital at Charity on Friday.
At the hospital, Ward Sister Dame Hercules, when asked by the committee about the supply of medication currently available at the facility, said there have been shortages over the past three months. “We normally receive supplies from Suddie, so what Suddie doesn’t have, we don’t have neither. For the past three months, we have been short of supply and usually if the doctors prescribed a medication that we don’t have, we would ask the relatives to purchase them. If they cannot afford it, then we try our best to supply the medication but most times they would purchase it themselves,” she explained.
Hercules noted that presently the hospital has no Vitamin K and patients who need it are transferred to the Suddie Public Hospital. “Despite not having the medication, the doctor would communicate with the Suddie Hospital and we would have to transfer the patient to see what can be done at Suddie,” she added.
This newspaper was told that the hospital has an average of about 150 outpatients and the current supply of medication in the bond at the hospital is only expected to last for the next two weeks.
Because of the shortage of medication, referrals from the hospital to the Suddie Hospital are done on a daily basis.
Hercules added that a shortage of staff is also a big contributor to the number of referrals. “Persons would come with a fracture and we don’t have a P.O.P [Plaster of Paris] technician or orthopaedic doctor at the hospital, so patients have to be transferred. We are understaffed and it’s a countrywide problem. The maternity
section is short of midwives… we need four midwives and three staff nurses. We need a lab technician and an orthopaedic doctor. If we have these persons, the referrals will be less and we won’t have to use a large amount of fuel,” she added.
Meanwhile, there is a surgical theatre at the Oscar Joseph District Hospital but no surgery is done there. The room has been converted into a store room for equipment that no longer works. Social Services Committee member Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo, who is a PPP/C MP, said the situation is of grave concern since previously persons from as far as Region Three used to visit the hospital for medical care.
In response to the difficulties that were highlighted, Persaud said that representation is being made at the parliamentary level. “We make a lot of representation and recommendations to improve what you have and to try to push for what you want in order to have good healthcare going forward. We plan to recommend training for the region, so a lot of your doctors can go at the Georgetown Public Hospital and get training in Accident and Emergency so that when they come back to the region, at least they will come with a special skill,” she noted.
The team was told that the pharmacy at the hospital has been experiencing drug shortages since last year and presently about 45 medications, inclusive of injections, tablets and ointments, are not available.
The medical supplies include commonly used ones such as Coartem, Ibuprofen 500mg, Flagyl 500mg, Nasal drops, Salbutamol spray, eye drops and Calamine lotion.
Earlier this month, Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt, in a press release, expressed his concern about drug shortages in the region.
“Due to this situation, patients have been expressing frustrations of having to purchase medications that were previously available. This is creating challenges to residents who are struggling to survive in a rapidly sinking economy. Based on reports received, in excess of 80 items comprising of tablets, injections and suspensions are unavailable at Health facilities in region 2. More precisely, frequently used Tablets such as Ibuprofen, Paracetamol and Captopril are not available. The Regional Democratic Council of Region Two reiterates its call for the Ministry of Health to meaningfully engage the Regional Democratic Council of Region Two in addressing the increasing challenges affecting health in the region,” he said in the release.
The Oscar Joseph District Hospital provides health care needs to the persons living in Region One, Upper and Lower Pomeroon River and some villages along the Essequibo Coast.
The committee members were accompanied by Vice Chairperson of Region Two Nandranie Coonjah and other members of the Regional Democratic Council.