UK’s Smart Hospital initiative in Guyana ends as 5 facilities upgraded

Georgetown Public Hospital

The United Kingdom’s Smart Hospitals Initiative in Guyana has officially come to an end, with all five hospitals that were earmarked to be upgraded having been commissioned.

The British High Commission in Georgetown on Tuesday evening held a reception to commemorate the past several years of working on this project which has seen all five institutions transformed into more efficient facilities that better serve the needs of their respective communities.

Seven Caribbean countries were identified to benefit from the £46.3 million Strengthening Health Facilities in the Caribbean (Smart Hospital) project which was funded by UK AID and implemented by PAHO in close collaboration with the Ministries of Health of the selected countries.

Those countries are Dominica, St Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Belize, Guyana, and Jamaica.

In Guyana, 71 health facilities were assessed and it was determined that the hospitals at Diamond in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Leonora in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Mabaruma in Region One (Barima-Waini), Lethem in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and Paramakatoi in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) would benefit from the upgrades.

Today, all five institutions have been upgraded into smart hospitals, that is, facilities that can withstand disasters and are more efficient and climate-friendly.

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller noted that although the physical upgrade of the facilities has ended, the initiative has long-lasting impacts.

“It was never the intention that the end of retrofitting would be the end of the project. The whole idea of the project was to develop a blueprint, to develop a toolkit that would enable facilities to be retrofitted or facilities to be built with…better standards in mind,” she said.

As such, she encouraged the Government to ensure these standards were embedded in new infrastructure going forward.

Staff of the Lethem Regional Hospital pose for a photo

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony agreed. In delivering remarks, the Minister revealed that the Government has also taken it upon itself to add to the hospitals, outside of what the UK project catered for.

The first facility that was upgraded and commissioned was the Diamond Hospital along the East Bank of Demerara. It was reported that on June 1, 2020, contractor Raffik and Sons started the retrofitting works which were supposed to be completed on May 31, 2021; however, with the cooperation of all stakeholders, the facility was completed on April 6, 2021.

The Diamond Hospital was retrofitted to improve its resistance to strong winds, flooding, and earthquakes as well as boost the ‘greenness’ of the facility and emergency contingency provisions. The safety aspects included the installation of wind-resistant roofs, windows, and doors as well as improved stormwater management. Walls were strengthened, electrical wiring was renewed, and a fire safety system was installed.

The functional aspects of the retrofit included specific improvements for disabled persons, accessibility, telecommunication, and infection control. The green upgrades provided more efficient cooling, ventilation, and waste management; rainwater harvesting systems; LED lighting; solar panels – all aimed at lowering the operating expenditures and environmental footprint. The facility also received a full upgrade of the Pharmacy and HVAC system to keep medicines and supplies at a safe storage temperature. These upgrades cost around $222 million.

Leonora Hospital

In October 2021, the Lethem Regional Hospital was recommissioned as a smart facility, which costed US$4 million. This was the second facility to be retrofitted.

In August 2022, the Leonora Cottage Hospital, West Coast Demerara (WCD) was officially handed over to the Health Minister, having been fully converted into a smart facility at a cost of about US$1.2 million, becoming the third institution to be completed under the project.

On November 23, 2020, contractor Correia & Correia Ltd started the retrofitting works, which, despite being challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, were completed on January 31, 2022. In addition to the project scope of works, the Health Ministry funded other works, including the construction of a new generator room, renovation of the kitchen, storage bond, maternity ward, and laundry room along with the extension of an external shed pharmacy waiting area, and eye care department.

It also provided medical equipment such as ultrasound machines and dental units to improve the accessibility and delivery of quality health care. These works were completed in August 2022. Moreover, Leonora Hospital has new safety measures as well as green technology and improved patient flow. The safety upgrades included the replacement of damaged roof frame members; replacement of damaged floor finishes, doors, and windows; the introduction of antimicrobial floor surfaces in critical clinical areas; upgrades to the electrical network; the introduction of firefighting apparatus, and improvement of fire detection devices.

Mabaruma Hospital

The green upgrades provided for more efficient cooling, ventilation, and waste management; boosted rainwater harvesting systems and stormwater drainage and installed LED-lighting solar water heaters. The functional upgrades included the construction of a new 1000 sq ft pharmacy complete with a bond area and the construction of a new external ramp to facilitate safe movement from the ground floor to the top floor. Other works include an improved ambulance bay, new emergency room, new consultation and x-ray rooms, expanded records, emergency triage, isolation, and reception and screening rooms while the waiting room was also expanded to accommodate more patients.

Meanwhile, the Mabaruma Hospital was upgraded into a smart facility to the tune of $150 million and was officially commissioned in December 2022. The Mabaruma Hospital now features a new Accident and Emergency (A&E) department; a renovated recovery room; a state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit (ICU); a refurbished kitchen; a sterilisation room and two surgical theatres.

The last hospital to be transformed was the Paramakatoi facility, which saw the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) coming on board to provide assistance owing to the number of challenges faced with regard to this leg of the project.

The Paramakatoi Hospital was officially launched as a smart facility in April 2023. Reports are that the GDF started the retrofitting works of the Paramakatoi Health Centre in February 2022. Despite being challenged by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, transport issues, and the remoteness of the facility in Region Eight, work was completed in March with the community’s help.

The facility has new safety measures, contingency provisions, and green technology to provide the community with a much-improved patient experience and service.