Ministry to start on alternative crossing for Moruca residents in new week

An overhead view of the Moruca bridge (DPI photo)

Expectant mothers brought to the city from hinterland locations for medical treatment will now be accommodated at an improved maternity waiting home which was commissioned on Wednesday at the Indigenous Residence in Georgetown.

Maternity waiting homes are, in essence, residential facilities located near qualified medical institutions where pregnant woman who are considered to be “high risk” are brought to await the delivery process.

It was noted that the recently rehabilitated waiting home at the Indigenous residence located at Princes Street, Charlestown is a component of a larger project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as part of efforts to reduce maternal, perinatal and neonatal deaths in Guyana.

The project, as explained by Pauline Welch, Senior Social Worker, Welfare and Health at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, has three aspects. These focus on strengthening of reproductive, maternal and neonatal health services, strengthening the healthcare network and administration and evaluation.

“It’s not just a waiting home in Georgetown but there is also some work being done at the C.C Nicholson Hospital in Berbice, purchases of vehicles and important equipment such as radio sets for the facilities in regions 3,4 and 9,” she added.

Stabroek News understands that the rehabilitation of the maternity waiting home at the Indigenous residence which was done at a cost of US$3,534 now allows an additional 10 beds, bringing the total number of available beds to 32.

It was noted too that rehabilitation of the home began in February, with a section of the residence undergoing renovation before the new facility was set-up. The rehabilitated home is the third of three that currently exist.

Other homes are said to be located in Suddie, on the Essequibo Coast and Lethem in Region Nine, with one currently under construction in Annai, also in Region Nine that is being co-financed by the IDB and another expected to be constructed in Moruca in the near future. 

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, who was the keynote speaker at the event reiterated that the rehabilitated home forms part of her Ministry’s mandate to increase access to health services and reduce maternal deaths by bridging the geographical barriers that hinder access to health care.

 “According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), many consider maternity waiting homes to be a key element of a strategy to bridge the geographical gap. That gap that they are talking about is in obstetric care between rural areas with poor access to equipped facilities and urban areas where the services are available. As one component of a comprehensive package of essential obstetric services, maternity waiting homes may offer a low cost way to bring women closer to needed obstetric care,” Lawrence posited.

“I want to offer my sincere congratulations and hope that this facility will serve as a comfortable and caring home away from home where your health and pregnancies can be monitored and safe delivery procedures can be ensured. It would certainly be remiss of me not to say thank you to the agency responsible for all of our waiting homes in Guyana, this agency is none other than the IDB from whom the Ministry of Finance was able to secure a loan for the Ministry of Public Health to improve maternal and child health in Guyana,” the Minister added.

Similar sentiments were shared by Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock who noted that there has been a demand for facilities of this kind over the years.

“Over the years we have recognized that there is a need for such a facility and over the last short three years we have been able to add to what we’ve had here… As you know, our population mainly in the indigenous communities have been advancing and we have to take care of those young people,” the Minister said.

Allicock also took the opportunity to lobby for there to be more communication between residents of the hinterland and the ministries to allow for better comprehension of what services are needed.

“I would also like to say to the communities that you all come from, that we all have a role to play and that is simply allowing us at the Ministry here to understand what is happening back home and to keep that communication link through health, through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ affairs so that we can be in a better position to deliver services that will allow you safety and a better life,” the Minister remarked.

“We are aware of the difficulties in the hinterland, how difficult it is to get out here, how long it takes to return or recover and how sometimes you may not be comfortable with your food but we are looking at all these things to give you the best that we could,” he added.

Efforts to establish an alternative crossing for residents who utilise the San Jose Bridge in Moruca, Region One, will be made in the new week, says Hinterland Engineer Jeffrey Walcott.

On Sunday, this newspaper had reported the concerns of residents of Santa Rosa and surrounding communities regarding the delay in the commencement of works on the deteriorating San Jose Bridge.

Their concerns are based on an announcement made in May of this year by Minister of State Joseph Harmon that a $119 million contract was awarded to Mohamed Ramzan Alli Khan Construction to build a “proper” bridge at the location.

Meanwhile, Walcott, in an interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), explained that the contractor is expected to commence some works in the new week, focusing first on the implementation of alternative crossing and addressing safety concerns.

The actual dismantling of the wooden structure however, will commence when all major items have been acquired to minimize the construction time, the engineer said.


“There are difficulties in securing and moving extremely long piles, hence the ministry is pursuing an option[s] which will allow for the use of more common lengths. The ministry is also incorporating longer span beams which will allow for piles being driven less frequently in the channel so that it can remain open to river traffic. However, full-length steel beams do require some time for procurement since the sizes required must generally be imported”, Walcott explained.

Notwithstanding, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure is said to be putting measures in place to quickly address residents’ concerns and have been working to optimize the final design for the new bridge at Moruca.

Additionally, a geotechnical investigation for the new bridge was said to have been completed last July, the objective of which is to ensure the delivery of a functional and resilient bridge that will better serve the community. Key among the design process was the consideration of issues of flooding and river traffic, both of which affect residents, DPI reported.

“The ministry has deployed a full-time engineer in the Region, as well as a support team from its Head Office and is committed to working with the Region, Toshao and Village Council to ensure quality work is done and the community gets value for money. A consultant was also engaged to provide sufficient technical support and supervision services during critical aspects of the work,” DPI said.

This newspaper had also reported claims made by Village Councillor Sharon Atkinson that residents are being left in the dark since the Bill of Quantities requested by the village council is yet to be seen. She would have also sought to highlight what was described as a “skeletal print,” which was shown to the council being passed off as the bridge design.


However, Walcott would have told DPI that the community has been engaged on two occasions, before disclosing that a third engagement is scheduled for some time in the new week.

“The ministry has formally met and discussed with representatives from the Regional Administration and Council in May and July of this year, moving the project forward,” the engineer said.

Walcott also disclosed that Standard design drawings were provided to the Assistant Regional Executive Officer (AREO) Renita Williams, Toshao Whanita Phillips and the Village Council, while a bill of quantity was subsequently provided to the former.

 On a different note however, the engineer expressed his appreciation to the council for ensuring that all nearby shops were relocated “for the smooth and uninterrupted flow of work.”





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