Government health program lacks equity in rural areas

Dear Editor,

The delivery of proper healthcare services in Guyana has languished over the years and is the story of “Two Guyanas” where rural areas (where mainly PPP supporters live) were neglected and you had to travel to town to get better treatment and services. The drug bond scandal under the PNC/AFC reflects corruption in the health sector, including the theft of drugs and medical supplies by staff, depriving the system of vital resources. Lack of trained doctors/nurses/specialists (e.g. no trained ultrasound technicians at Suddie Hospital for five months), drug supply issues, poor inventory control systems, need to destroy drugs due to a high expiry rate, have impoverished the health care system. (See “Government Begins Dumping Over $742 Million in Expired Medicines Left Behind by Coalition,” KN, November 21, 2020). If you didn’t have the money to go to a private hospital, you might die in the government facility.

Thus, the government is to be commended for its plan to build seven new hospitals. The PNC/AFC, playing politics, had thwarted the PPP project to build a specialized hospital. The urgency of a decent healthcare system may not have been a priority for politicians because they can access foreign treatment at taxpayer expense. A Mr. David recently wrote: “Guyana is a fractured health system in need of major surgery. Try to summon an ambulance, ambulance or emergency medical transport (EMT) to take a sick, injured or disabled person to the hospital and you will find the futility of your efforts. Our experiences in Region 6 provide insight into how poorly our system works. At health centers – poorly maintained and the grass not mowed – you get few services and are usually referred to a real hospital. If you go to Black Bush Hospital they can refer you to Port Mourant Hospital which has been a joke for a long time as it was a decrepit, poorly equipped and poorly maintained facility that offers very few services. Whether you go to Black Bush Hospital, Port Mourant or Skeldon, you will eventually end up in New Amsterdam Hospital and then you may be referred to Georgetown Hospital.

You can die in this carousel. For a rural person, having to travel to Georgetown to access treatment is traumatic as it takes time, you are unfamiliar with the town, and travel and accommodation will be difficult and expensive. Rural people pay more for everything, compared to city/region residents 4. Those with lots of money can access the private Anamayah Hospital in Belvedere. When people go to clinics and hospitals, it often happens that the drugs are still not available, and you are given a prescription to pick them up and buy them yourself. My friend George told me he had blood tests done and after a month his clinic said they had not received the results. What I find very sad is when parents have to make appeals in the newspapers for financial assistance to get life-saving treatment abroad for their children. This should not happen when we are the richest country in CARICOM (but our currency is less than Haiti’s), when the government allows oil companies to take most of our oil wealth. People need to understand that if we don’t renegotiate the oil contract to get more money, it will be a long time before we see widespread improvements in our lifetime.

The announcements of many new hotels do nothing for the poor in the villages. I noticed that the government is in partnership with Hess and Mount Sinai. We need more disclosures on this arrangement. Make the documents available on the website. While the United States has good technical facilities and services, health care is the biggest rip-off there. Their “for-profit” system is designed to scam consumers. Health care and medicines are very expensive and can put you out of business. The medical lobby is the most powerful. Republicans are good at convincing their constituents that universal (free) health care is bad for you. The first thing a medical professional wants to know is if you have medical insurance. In Dubai/UAE, an employer bringing in workers must provide health insurance as a condition for a work permit to be issued. With foreigners coming to work in Guyana, do we have such a rule? We need to watch the growing trend to privatize health care. Which friends of the government will benefit? We must expand universal health care.

We need dialysis clinics everywhere, in every region, and should have more than one such facility in large regions such as region 6. We need laboratory services, including all diagnostic imaging, MRI, ultrasound , X-rays, scanners, occupational therapy and physiotherapy in the areas where we live. The government needs to stop putting everything in New Amsterdam. We need equal services in Upper Corentyne, Central Corentyne and New Amsterdam. What is the government’s plan for the current Skeldon Hospital? Why can’t we upgrade and modernize Port Mourant Hospital which is at the heart of a large population area, also a PPP vote farm? How about adding an American-style “urgent care” component to some community health centers? The government is on the right track with the seven new hospitals, but much remains to be done and should be accelerated. Renegotiate oil contracts so we can get more money to do all these things. Everything needs to be improved!


Dr. Jerry Jailall

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