Jul 04, 2008 News Comments Off on Americans hand over US$4.4M lab
After three years of meticulous construction and a process of installation, the National Public Health Reference Centre, located at the corner of New Market and Thomas Streets, has been completed. It was handed over to the Ministry of Health yesterday.
At a cost of some US$4.4M, the facility was constructed with funding from the United States Government through the PEPFAR initiative, with support from the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC).
The project was slated for a July 4, 2008 completion.
And according to CDC Country Director, Dr LaMar Hasbrouck, many people doubted the project would have been completed on time.
He disclosed that the project was realised with the vision and persistent leadership of Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and his staff, the generosity of the American people and a power-partnership.
The completion of the project means that Guyana is now home to a facility that is modern in its design; sophisticated in its complexity; has filtered water system; reliable power source; one that is advanced in technology, with equipment and the capacity to store specimen long term.
“It means that we can establish normal laboratory value for the people of Guyana, so that the diagnosis and management of conditions like anaemia, hepatitis, diabetes and high cholesterol are based on information from this cultural contact, and not some other far away country.”
As a result, Dr Hasbrouck revealed, when there is a suspected hazardous substance or an infectious disease outbreak, samples can be processed at the facility and then be authenticated.
The facility will also have the capabilities to test an infant within weeks of birth to a mother with HIV/AIDS to determine its status and allow the engagement of life saving therapy.
And according to Dr Hasbrouck, no longer will resistant strains of tuberculosis and HIV be hidden in the blind spot of the health workers’ clinical suspicion, but, instead, samples can now be tested at the centre.
In essence, the CDC Head related that the facility means “a safe and healthy working environment for lab workers. It means this and a lot more…”
But, according to him, technology is not the same as capacity, thus diligent efforts are being made to put strategies in place to ensure that the people power needed to operate the facility will be present.
“While the builder was working on the frame of the structure, we were busy working with the minister and his staff to develop the framework for the staff recruitment, training and development.”
According to Dr Hasbrouck, until there are competent, trained people adhering to best practices and procedures, the promise will not be fully realised.
For this reason, he assured, CDC will do its part to ensure that the facility “does not slip into disrepair,” even as he speculated that it would become a national and regional centre of excellence for laboratory standards, services, training, surveillance and research which could respond to any public health threat in the country.
Charge d’Affaires of the United States Embassy, Ms Karen Williams, pointed out that the completion of the structure should not be considered just a building but, rather, a partnership between the US and Guyanese Governments.
Williams said that the project was realised with the dedicated efforts of more than 150 workers and five sub-contractors. She said that the work was done by Guyanese people with the guidance of Americans, signalling the true partnership effort.
“The collaborative effort included the support of all of the US missions (including CDC) and other donors such as the World Bank and the Clinton Foundation, and we appreciate those efforts greatly.”
She, too, assured that the US Government will remain committed to working with the Guyana Government in order to sustain a fully operational National Public Health Institute to safeguard the health of the people of Guyana.
Minister Ramsammy, who symbolically received the key to the Institute, said that yesterday was a proud day for Guyana.
He said that the partnership which has been forged between the two Governments is one that will provide a facility which will make a real difference in people’s lives.
“It is institutions like these that are born out of partnerships that give real meaning to the song ‘What a wonderful world’.”
Dr Ramsammy pointed out that improving health of the citizenry has always been about partnership.
According to the minister, while Guyana had a vision of such a lab becoming a reality, there were some regional institutions that did not believe that Guyana needed a public health agency and a public health laboratory.
“My staff stuck with me and the US Government through CDC support of this vision, and I am glad today that we are here.”
According to Minister Ramsammy, the facility was designed to support the public health agency, to create the centre of excellence for treatment and care, and to provide for a national reference lab. However, he noted that it is anticipated that the facility will help to move the public health sector of Guyana to another level.
Following his remarks, Dr Ramsammy was presented with a symbolic key to the facility, after which he, together with Ms Williams, unveiled a plaque to mark the handing over date.
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