Disability is still a major public health, social, economic and security problem in Guyana, as it is in every nation on earth.
Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy made this comment when he addressed the opening of a consultation intended to help formulate plans needful for the provision of disability and rehabilitative services.
The forum, which was held at the Ocean View International Conference Centre yesterday, represented the first time that an external consultation has been held in this regard.
And according to the minister, the perseverance of the Chairperson of the National Commission on Disability (NCD), Evelyn Hamilton, and the Commission, has relentlessly sought after legislation for disabled persons.
“At this time Cabinet is making its final perusal of the legislation, which has already been perused by the Attorney General Office. As soon as Cabinet gives the go-ahead — which is now a matter of weeks — the legislation will be read for the first time in the National Assembly.”
The minister pointed out that the move would be a major advancement in terms of recognising and implementing services for those living with disabilities.
“I believe that it would be a truly pivotal moment in our country, and in every country, there are few genuine milestone events.
The passage of the disability legislation in our country will be one of those milestones in our country.”
Pan American Health Organisation Country Representative Dr Kathleen Israel said that the venture comes at a very opportune time, since it will prelude a week of activities aimed at increasing the awareness of people with disabilities, and will also coincide with the International Day for People with Disabilities, on Wednesday, December 3.
She noted that effort must be made to let people see what else is needed to develop service to people with disabilities in Guyana, adding that the National Strategic Plan is a fundamental tool for such an undertaking.
She disclosed, though, that the Health Ministry has been doing a commendable job to address the needs and rights of disabled individuals.
“The Persons with Disabilities Act, which was adopted in 2007 under the leadership of the NCD, can be considered a landmark for this country.
The segment of this Act that deals with health underscores the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to ensure access to rehabilitation and medical service for those in need of such.”
Dr Israel further articulated that the full implementation of the Act will result in a paradigm shift in the way disabilities are addressed in Guyana.
However, she noted that in order for substantial results to be derived, a comprehensive plan that identifies the strategies and activities needed to achieve the health rights of people with disabilities is required.
“In order to effectively articulate such a plan, it is imperative that an analysis of what the different stakeholders can contribute be undertaken.
It is for this reason that this activity is taking place today (yesterday) to assist the Ministry of Health, and particularly the Department of Rehabilitation Services, in its effort to develop the national strategic plan for disabilities and rehabilitation service in Guyana.”
According to the NCD Chairperson, Ms Hamilton, because of the expanded service provided by the ministry’s Rehabilitation Department, it is seen as a very important partner.
She pointed out that while the department has been able to do a good job, even with modest resources, emphasis must still be focused on early diagnosis and early intervention to prevent or mitigate disabilities that arise.
“Only yesterday (Thursday), in a meeting organised by the Community Based Rehabilitation Programme and Voluntary Service Organisation, there was discussion on how agencies could collaborate better to achieve the objective of either reducing or mitigating disability and trying to ensure that there is greater coverage and less duplication of efforts…”
She highlighted that it is at fora such as the consultation yesterday that agencies can reflect and review their achievements on the way forward, which is very important in a strategic planning process.
NCD has completed a second five-year strategic plan this year, and in the plan, according to Hamilton, are proposals on ways it could make stakeholders more aware of the rehabilitation services offered through the Ministry of Health, so as to have more persons access the services.
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