The new Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence I believe has inherited a mess from both Dr Bheri Ramsaran and Dr George Norton in the health sector generally as well as in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). It will be a monumental task to clean up the mess and corruption that was left behind. I am no specialist in the health field, but what I know from my little knowledge, this ministry was riddled with corruption during the PPP/C’s 23 years in office and it spilled over into the new APNU+AFC coalition government. Don’t even talk about the shortage of drugs at our hospitals; it is rampant. Small things like syringes, drainage bags, insulin, Panadol, etc, you name it, you cannot get it. With all the billions of dollars which are budgeted each year for drugs and medical supplies we the patients are given prescriptions from doctors at government hospitals to purchase the medication from private pharmacies outside.
I had the opportunity to look back at some of the previous administration’s Health budgets and this is what I came across: $17 billion was expended in 2012, the final year of the National Health Strategic Plan 2008-2012; $1billion was spent to expand, upgrade and maintain the infrastructural facilities; $335 million was spent on the training of public health personnel; over $2.3 billion was allocated in 2013; over $2.3 billion was allocated for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of the health infrastructure countrywide, of which $1.3 billion was budgeted for the state-of-the-art specialty surgical hospital and the Port Kaituma District hospital. Over $369 million was budgeted for human resource development, procurement and distribution of over 6,000 long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets for hinterland communities, primarily in mining areas.
When you look at the billions which was budgeted and spent in the health sector you are left to wonder where all this money went, because it never filtered down to the sick patients in terms of drugs and care in the hospitals and outpatients department. If you look at the major hospital in Georgetown and the others around the country they are all falling apart, not only in terms of drugs but the quality of services, which is very poor. A huge sum of money was spent on training for public health personnel, but now you are left to wonder if these personnel were receiving proper training. You go to some of these hospitals and you are treated really poorly; some of the nurses and doctors are not courteous to patients.
I often go to the Suddie hospital for my medical check-up and treatment. I see a lot of substandard work on this hospital building; the boards are full with wood sap and the painting is fading with cracks, electrical wiring hanging off the walls, and minimal bed space. According to international standards this should be 120 sq ft per patient, yet it is smaller in Guyanese hospitals.
It is evident that Minister Volda Lawrence is going to face tremendous challenges ahead, and continuing rising expectations from her staff. There are big problems in her ministry, and these must be addressed. They must not be swept under the carpet, under the pretence that they are not happening. At the same time, they must not be seen as unsolvable problems.