By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran has defended as gratifying the administration’s commitment and efforts towards improving the local health sector following disparagements from Opposition front bencher and Shadow Health Minister Dr. George Norton.
Minister Ramsaran said he was particularly happy with the increase the sector has been afforded in the recent annual national budgets, stating that it will allow his ministry to address new issues and challenges.
Dr. Norton, who preceded Dr. Ramsaran in his presentation in the House on Wednesday, April 02, had said that the results of the most recent professional nursing examination are evidence of deep rooted difficulties and deficiencies in training.
He opined that the administration has demonstrated no seriousness in dealing with the issue, adding that the $428M allocated in the 2014 budget for strengthening human capital be spent efficiently to change for the better, the quality of nurse training.
Norton also criticized the treatment meted out to medical professionals, calling for duty free concession, special consideration for houses and appropriate remuneration and adequate health benefits which he believe will significantly lower the exiting high rate of attrition.
“Nurse patient ratio has dropped, there are fewer nurses per patients and they are leaving because of poor remuneration,” Norton added.
To this end, the Health Minister noted that the Opposition must be practical and realistic. “This country has made bounds,” Ramsaran said.
He said medical professionals are given both reasonable salaries and none salary incentives which includes training.
‘We’re giving them training and they’re staying’ he added.
The Minister said the government will be paying a lot of attention to human resource development, as he pointed to additional money in the 2014 budget more monies are allotted for training.
He reminded that evening classes were instituted at the nursing school which is under construction for expanding to relieve students of some of their woes.
In relation to the failure rate, he told the House that the system allows for several rests adding that when compared to private training the public results were equal and called on the opposition to look deeper in their criticism.
Among other criticisms of Dr. Norton were that more money was being allocated to the rehab of the psychiatric hospital but it remains wanting for a several social and infrastructural upgrades.
He posited too that it was time the government recognizes that suicide is a serious public health problem and demonstrate better leadership.
“Suicide is being ignored by PPP government… Guyana ranks 4th in suicide per capita worldwide with 111 in 2013 and the highest in Region Six” he said, adding that “there were 23 for this year” as he recalled the recent cases where a mother drank poison after poising her two children, the 10 –year – old boy who attempted to hang himself and a 13 – year old who one day after also hung himself.
The APNU MP said it was time the administration move to revise the Mental Health Act which he says is long overdue and has no leverage to tackle the situation.
He also chided the government for what he says was the non – availability of drugs in the public health system and the annual discarding of large sums.
In response the Health Minister stated firstly that the opposition MP was misguided since suicide is not only business of Ministry of Health and incorporates a multi – agency approach.
He rejected claims that large amounts of expired and drugs with short shelve lives were being procured and had to be discarded shortly after.