GPHC Oncology Dep’t, Health Science Institute get new building

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence (second, from right) and Junior Health Minister Dr. Karen Cummings () as they unveiled the plague for the building which now houses the Institute of Health Science Education (IHSE) and the Oncology Department. (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

A new $45 million building housing the Oncology Department of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the Institute of Health Science Education (IHSE) was yesterday hailed as another step forward in the hospital’s delivery of better healthcare and the advancement of research and health science education opportunities.

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence yesterday commissioned the two-storey building, which will house the Oncology Department in the lower flat and the IHSE, the arm of the GPHC that is tasked with facilitating post-graduate medical education, in the upper flat.

Speaking at the commissioning yesterday, Director of Medical Education (ag) Dr. Alexandra Harvey said, “whether upstairs or downstairs, the new facility provides a much improved environment for its users.”

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence testing one of the chairs in the treatment room of the newly commissioned Oncology Department. (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

She noted that prior to the commissioning of the new building, the IHSE had been housed in an older building. She added that the “beauty” of the new location comes not only in it housing the office of the IHSE but also much needed modern classroom facilitates that will cater for the expanding student population.

Director of Professional Services Sheik Amir, who also spoke at the commissioning, said the new building is in keeping with the mission and vision of the hospital to deliver better healthcare and also to advance the research and health science education opportunities. 

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence testing one of the chairs in the treatment room of the newly commissioned Oncology Department. (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

Similar sentiments were shared by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GPHC Brigadier (Ret’d) George Lewis, who described the event as another history making day for the GPHC as it would have commissioned another facility aimed at improving the quality of healthcare.

Giving a brief history of the project, Lewis said the building was first earmarked to be a day care, however, after some reconsideration it was decided that it would house the IHSE and the Oncology Department.

He explained that the decision to switch plans was made in the first quarter of 2017 and works to construct the building to suit that of a day care were paused as revaluations were being done.

Further, Lewis said the initial cost to construct and furnish the facility to fit the needs of a day care was given as $35.8 million, while the revised plans saw the cost increase to $48.8 million.

He noted, however, that through “prudent financial management,” the building was completed on April 26th, 2018, at a cost of $45.2 million.

Lewis said the Oncology Department features a treatment room, a waiting area, a storage room, an office for the social worker attached to the department and five washrooms. The new IHSE headquarters, he added, have been equipped with resources that would allow online learning, two modern classrooms, a director’s office, and a receptionist’s area, among other features.

He encouraged staffers to practice proper use of the facility in order to preserve its lifespan, since, according to him, “we cannot afford to continuously be repairing or replacing equipment at facilities at this institution or we will not move forward.”


Meanwhile, Lawrence, who delivered the featured address, acknowledged both areas as being of critical importance for the GPHC and the local health sector.

She noted that the Health Science Education programme has been a key contributor to the efficient and effective functioning of the health sector and particularly at the Ministry of Public Health with the regard to the continuous provision of professional Human Resources personnel in health.

According to the minister, it has been so highly regarded that others from around the region have expressed interests in traveling to Guyana to complete their training. “We have the opportunity to entertain more prospective residents, who in turn will provide a larger, qualified and specialised workforce, whose expertise can be utilised in all our hospitals and medical facilities to deal with all the challenges and [non communicable diseases] that are lurking in all crevices of society,” Lawrence remarked.

With regard to oncology, the minister said the department has been plagued from the inception with inadequate accommodation, and inadequacy of resources and resource personnel, as a result of which only a few patients were able to access the facility.

The situation has since improved, she said, before alluding to introduction of training programmes for nurses and the arrival of Dr. Justo Despaigne, consultant and current Head of the Oncology Department.

“With regards to cancer, Guyana ranks highest in the Caribbean region with an incidence rate of 46.9% and a mortality rate of 21 per 100,000 persons. Cervical cancer alone kills 100 women every year, making it the leading cause of cancer mortality per year. This is why the expansion of our oncology services has become one of our top priorities and we have gone to such lengths to ensure that we have a building designed uniquely for our cancer accommodation,” Lawrence remarked. “This is the just the beginning for what I have proposed for the Oncology Department because cancer is a complicated condition and I want to make provisions for our people to receive optimum cancer care and I am speaking here because I myself am an overcomer of cancer,” she added. (Mariah Lall)

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