The Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence last week acknowledged that the district and regional hospitals are not operating at full capacity, and has since announced that two district hospitals will be upgraded to regional status.
The Minister made the acknowledgement while delivering the feature address at last Friday’s commissioning of the new maternity wing of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). Addressing the problem of the early closing of the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH), as raised by Dr. Pedro Lucio, Minister Lawrence attributed it to the limited number of lab technicians and other technical staff working beyond the regular eight-hour shifts. As a result, Lawrence stated that they have been working with regional authorities to address the situation and they will have the hospital running on a 24-hour basis before the end of the year.
According to the Department of Public Information, Lawrence has since announced the scheduled upgrade of the Diamond Diagnostic Centre on the East Bank, and C.C. Nicholson Hospital at Nabacalis on the East Coast, to regional hospitals under a two-year plan to lighten the current burden on the GPHC.
Lawrence, who had unveiled the proposed pact last week during a meeting with Councillors from Region Four’s regional administration, explained that upgrading the two health institutions is necessary to help remove some over-work from the GPHC institution, minimize the likelihood of errors made by fatigued hospital staff and enable better daily management of the tertiary health institution.
“I want to also assure you that, we are working to ensure that we upgrade our primary facilities in the various regions so that we do not have that high inflow of patients being referred to our tertiary health institution for services that can be had in the regions,” she said.
Stabroek News understands the improvement plan will be backed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/ WHO), as well as by funding from the local treasury.
The multi-million dollar transformation plan is expected to commence in early 2018, following a soon-to-be-signed tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the Ministries of Public Health and Communities and the Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) Regional Democratic Council (RDC).
Speaking earlier at the commissioning of the maternity wing, Dr. Pedro, the Head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, had said that there was a great need for regional and district hospitals to be upgraded if the burden of patient referrals at the GPHC is to be resolved. In addition to the upgrading of the hospitals, there is also need for cooperation among hospitals to ease the burden placed on the GPHC, specifically that which is placed on the maternal unit at the hospital. Elaborating, the doctor stated that the GPHC receives a high number of referrals specific to its maternal unit, a lot of which originate from the WDRH.
This being said, Dr. Pedro expressed the belief that such hospitals should be properly equipped to handle their workload. Commenting about the current situation at the WDRH, he noted that the hospital does not operate on a 24 hour basis due to issues that include, but are not limited to, the unavailability of blood and the absence of consultants.
This was confirmed by Regional Chairman Julius Faeber, who told Stabroek News that the WDRH is currently in “shambles,” since the theatre is not functioning and there is a shortage of drugs.