Op-Ed: No confidence in the public health sector

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Below is an opinion piece done by Dr Leslie Ramsammy a former Minister of Health under the People’s Progressive Party Administration;

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

When it comes to the APNU+AFC Ministers, the discourse in most households and in most gatherings relate to which minister is mostly missing in action (MIA).

In fact, the discourse relating to APNU+AFC ministers across the board is which one is the most incompetent, most corrupt or the most disinterested in their sector. A good example is the discourse relating to the public health sector.

Just one day of newspapers and TV newscast stories reveal something is really wrong.

Newspaper stories, TV newscasts, the social media today (Tuesday 22) tell stories of two children who died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) where parents and relatives have major concerns surrounding the circumstances of their deaths.

A third child appears to be in critical condition because of the same issues that led to the death of the two children. More than one week has passed since the first child died.

GPHC insists it is still conducting an investigation, an investigation that should have started, in accordance with standard protocols, the minute after the child died.

Even as this scandal is eliciting rage in the population, there is another family asking questions about the death of a young woman after she gave birth to a baby at the same hospital that occurred earlier in the month, but the hospital insists it is still conducting an investigation.

Today (Tuesday January 22), people got up and were horrified by newspaper stories that, at least, four bodies have decomposed while stored at the non-functional mortuary at the New Amsterdam Hospital.

There was prior knowledge the mortuary is not functional for some time now. I heard this story since Saturday last. It cannot be that the Ministers of Public Health are now finding out of this calamity, just like everyone else, from the newspapers.

While this mortuary is creating even more grief and agony for people who have lost their loved ones, there is the continuing months-long problems at Skeldon Hospital.

This hospital which used to receive electricity supply from the Skeldon Estate which is now closed, was eventually, after almost a year, connected to GPL. But the electricity supply is not stable, insufficient and plagued by constant blackouts. Management and staff have to determine which equipment will be used, since all of them cannot be used at the same time. This nightmare is not fiction, it is real.

These stories are only those in Tuesday’s (January 22) news and do not include other stories that people are numb to.

There are operating theaters not functioning, X-ray equipment out of order, laboratories without laboratory supplies and the continued medicine shortages, among the many woes that patients and health care staff confront daily.

While all of this are affecting people, the Ministers are busy with their politics, busy purging the staff of people they consider not supportive of APNU+AFC, busy bringing in people they consider as their “own PNC” people, as Senior Minister Volda Lawrence described them.

With all this chaos, one wonders where the Ministers are. Neither of them seem interested, they are distant from the problems and they signal a “don’t-care-attitude” that compound the rage people feel.

The Ministers are consistently, for the last three-and-a-half years, totally missing in action.

Even professionals in the public health sector have deemed the Ministers of Public Health the MIA Ministers.

With the magnitude of chaos in the health sector, this past week, the Senior Minister of Public Health was on the East Bank Demerara, at Diamond commissioning a Billboard touting the benefits of a Smart Hospital.

Last week the Junior Minister of Public Health found herself assuring people again, while she was on the West Coast Demerara, that the Ministry is working on ensuring adequate medicine supply, after she was forced to acknowledge that complaints of medicine shortages are now worst than they have even been under APNU+AFC. Neither Minister seemed bother by the chaos in the sector, giving no sign that they care.

The Guyanese people across the board have no confidence in the public health sector. No matter who they voted for in May 2015, no matter where they live, no matter their economic circumstances, no matter their race or religion, the Guyanese people have lost confidence in APNU+AFC’s ability to manage the public health system.

It is not only the incompetence, mismanagement and corruption which are rife in the Ministry of Public Health that exasperate people, it is the absolute disinterest by the Ministers that make people angry.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

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