With no medical background, Lawrence says she confident as Health Minister

– ‘Appointment might not be good for nation’s health’ – Ramsammy

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence

Volda Lawrence, who was recently reassigned from her post as Social Protection Minister, believes she is competent enough to serve in her new capacity as Public Health Minister regardless of her limited experience and knowledge in that sector.

Lawrence will be taking up her new post today. During a brief interview with Guyana Times on Thursday, the Minister said she is very elated with her new appointment and believes she will manage the Ministry effectively.

“I am happy that the fact you know is that I am a people’s person and I will have the opportunity once again to serve people and to serve them at a critical juncture of their lives, and that is during their illness,” she stated.

Asked about her qualifications for the post, the Minister posited that she does not need to be a medical practitioner to serve in that capacity.
“I believe that his Excellency in his wisdom knows best,” she said.

Meanwhile, a former Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy has said that while one is not required to be a medical doctor in order to serve as Public Health Minister, he sees the appointment of Volda Lawrence as one where it seems that her loyalty to the People’s National Congress (PNC) may take precedence over the development of all of “our people”.

On Tuesday, Government made public its decision to reshuffle the Cabinet, removing Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton as head of that Ministry and replacing him with Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence.

While the move was said to be a remedy to the management issues of the Ministry, there have been concerns in some quarters that Lawrence should not have been placed in that position because she is unqualified for it.

 Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Needs of sector

“The fact that Ms Lawrence is not a doctor does not disqualify her to be Minister of Health. What the matter is… if she will manage based on the need of the sector or she relies on political sycophants,” Ramsammy said.

He said that as a Guyanese who continues to hope for the best for the country, he extends best wishes to all three Ministers in their new portfolio.

“The movement of Dr Norton has been necessitated by what the President describes as an effort to remedy management deficiencies at the Ministry of Public Health. In less than two years, [the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change] APNU/AFC has squandered virtually all the gains made in health under the [People’s Progressive Party] PPP” Ramsammy noted.

He said the downward trajectory in health as seen in the lack of medicines and essential medical supplies, vaccine coverage, reduced surgical loads, increased maternal mortality rate and increased outbreaks of certain infectious conditions have been as a direct result of political machinations, adding that D Norton is the fall guy.

“The corrupt deals with the ‘house for a medical warehouse’ and the procurement of medicines and supplies from friends and donors of APNU/AFC was not just mismanagement by Dr Norton. These were decisions driven by the Cabinet”.

Similarly, the former Health Minister said management decisions for the Georgetown Public Hospital, New Amsterdam and other hospitals were driven by political motivations. He emphasised that Dr Norton has taken the fall.

“But now he has denied he mismanaged the sector and has stated he knows little about his new Ministry. By his own admission the President is abdicating his duty. He has taken a person he himself described as mismanaging an important sector and asked him to manage social cohesion. It exposes how little regard the President and APNU/AFC have for unity and harmony in our country” Ramsammy explained.

Reshuffling no help

Ramsammy said no amount of reshuffling will help as long as these important functions are driven by political considerations.

“I pray that all three succeed for Guyana’s sake. But I have little confidence that this Granger move will improve status quo. Indeed, there is a rich possibility of worsening the situation,” DrRamsammy said.

After declaring late last year that there would be no changes to his Cabinet, President David Granger in a surprise move, on Tuesday, made some significant changes to his pool of decision makers.

Dr Norton continuously found himself in “hot water” over the past months, especially as it relates to the controversial rental of the pharmaceutical bond at Sussex Street, Georgetown, which is billing Government in excess of $14 million per month.

The Head of State explained that it was his responsibility to continuously assess the ability of his Cabinet; hence, he found it necessary to look at the way the Public Health, Social Protection and Social Cohesion Ministries were performing and made some adjustments accordingly.

Like her predecessor at the Public Health Ministry, Minister Lawrence had found herself in several controversial situations last year. She came under fire after throwing her support behind an alleged child molester who had contested and was elected in his constituency during the March 2016 Local Government Elections. This issue sparked much public outrage, particularly among rights groups and activists who staged several protests outside the Ministry calling for Lawrence to be removed from office.

However, she found herself back into the limelight more recently when she counter-protested a vigil held by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) against Government’s move to revoke the lease on the CheddiJagan Research Centre Inc on Friday last.