GPHC fire: Disruption to services can last for months as authorities seek to procure new equipment

The aftermath of the fire at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony says disruption to services offered at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s (GPHC) echocardiography laboratory can last for months as authorities seek to procure new equipment following a fire which erupted at the location on Saturday.

It is suspected that the inferno is an act of arson. Over $20M in equipment were damaged in the blaze which was contained to that department following prompt response from the Guyana Fire Service (GFS).

“Certainly, there would be some amount of disruption, perhaps for a couple of months as we get that new piece of machine in place. These machines, obviously, will have to come from one of the manufactures abroad and to bring them into Guyana, so doing that would take some time for us to be able to do that,” the Health Minister explained to reporters following a tour at the health institution after the fire.

“This piece of equipment will allow us to make more precise diagnosis of a person’s heart condition, so it’s a very integral part of helping to diagnose types of heart disease that the patients would have. So, a lot of our patients whether they’re outpatient persons or persons who are in the hospital require this service, it’s almost kind of a routine once you do the preliminary work up that you’ll have to get an echocardiograph,” Dr Anthony outlined in explaining the importance of the equipment that was destroyed.

“Based on what you are seeing on the echocardiographs that informs on the next steps that person might need to get. So, it is a very critical important piece of equipment that has been damaged and the estimates from the CEO is approximately $20M to $25M …nevertheless we are going to work to ensure that we replace as quickly as possible,” he added.

According to the Dr Anthony, the destruction of this equipment will compromise the institution’s cardiac programme.

“In fact, it’s going to compromise our cardiac programme…we’re hoping that from the first of June this year we would’ve restarted our pediatric cardiac programme and this is a very important piece of equipment to screen for those patients, we have been screening and making up a list so, this now will disrupt that cardiac programme,” he explained.

Dr Anthony also had strong words of condemnation for those responsible for setting the institution on fire.

“The Police and the Fire Department, as I understand, having preliminary conversations with them, believe that this is a suspected arson and if that is the case, it is really disappointing that someone or some set of persons, whoever it is, would come to hospital that is serving people when they’re sick and vulnerable and try to do something like this,” he expressed.

“It’s really a dastardly act to try to burn a hospital down so, I would like to condemn it in the gravest of terms because this should not be allowed in a civilized society,” the Health Minister added.

A report from the Fire Service stated that water tenders from the Central, Campbellville and Alberttown Fire Stations in Georgetown were immediately dispatched to the New Market Street, North Cummingsburg location.

The fire occurred in the echocardiograph room, which is located on the first floor of the GPHC and the entire room was severely damaged.

At the time of the fire there were at least 11 patients in the vicinity – seven in the cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and four in another ICU. They were all evacuated to safety.

Guyana has already seen fires being set to important institutions such as the Brickdam Police Station and the building which houses the Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Both cases were acts of arson.