– Permanent Secretary
By Sharmain Cornette
Some $100M has been earmarked for infrastructural works at the Ministry of Health, but according to Permanent Secretary, Hydar Ally, the funds are not merely focused on reconstruction and rehabilitation works at the entity’s Brickdam headquarters.
Ally noted that the building that is currently being erected within the Ministry’s Brickdam compound is valued at some $30M and is being substantially funded by the Pan American Health Organisation with support from Central Government.
It is expected that the new building will have room to house the Ministry’s Crisis Hotline section as well as the Transport Department and the Vaccination Programme, according to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
“Right now all of these departments are squeezed in together so when the new building is completed we expect that our workers will be provided with a more comfortable working environment,” the Minister revealed to this newspaper.
But the new building under construction will in no way compensate for the buildings that were gutted by fire last year, the Minister stressed It is for this reason, he said, that measures are in train to construct a spanking new building, although funds are yet to be mobilised.
According to the Permanent Secretary, a total of $100M has been allocated and not expended, as was previously reported, to restore and construct spaces to ensure the sustained operation of the Health Ministry.
Ally during a recent interview with this newspaper revealed that while there is an overall capital programme with respect to the procurement of equipment and vehicles including ambulances, there is a specified $100M for capital works of an infrastructural nature.
He unveiled a detail breakdown of how the allocated sum should be spent as is reflected in the estimates of the National Budget. However, he asserted that “I am not at liberty to say that I want this building or that building to be done in a particular way.”
And there are instances when there is an urgent need for changes to be made to the spending programme. In fact in order to secure a change in the already detailed programme, Ally explained that he would first have to make a request in writing to the Ministry of Finance for permission to implement changes. And this procedure has been engaged with regards to the doctors’ quarters at Quamina Street in the city.
“I had to request a change of programme to do works, so as to include an extension of the Georgetown School of Nursing. You would have known that we had significantly increased the number of nurses in the training programme. Right now we have close to 600 nurses in training. It’s a record number; we never had that in the history of training in the country.”
It was recognised, Ally said, that the Nursing Schools were under pressure and that there was an urgent need to accommodate the numbers.
He stated that once permission is granted from the Finance Ministry to have a change in the work programme already designed for the doctors’ quarters, a sum of about $15M will instead be directed to the further expansion of the Nursing Schools.
“We are still awaiting approval but I am optimistic we will get it…This is not new money just a change in the current programme,” he asserted.
Additionally, a total of $10M of the allocated $100M has been directed to the rehabilitation of the old Guyana Water Incorporated buildings at Fort Street, Kingston, which according to Ally, has since been handed over to the Ministry of Health. The upper flat of that building is currently being used to accommodate some 150 students who are being trained by the Ministry.
However, Ally pointed out that the facility is not designated as a training facility but rather is slated as the venue for the relocation of the Ministry’s Food and Drug Department which is currently being housed at the Institute of Applied Science and Technology building at the University of Guyana.
The $100M is also expected to finance the rehabilitation of the Ministry’s storage bond or the Materials Management Unit at Kingston. This project is expected to be completed at a tune of $10M. In fact, a contract was earlier signed, but the contractor had subsequently encountered some difficulties and had indicated his inability to proceed with the project based on a reassessment of the scope of work, Ally divulged.
“We have since retendered and we are awaiting an award at the Central Tender Board on that one…This particular project has been put on hold because of the fact that the contractor decided that he would not be able to do the job.”
Meanwhile, another $10M has been allocated to the rehabilitation of the National Psychiatric Hospital. And a contract has been signed for this undertaking, according to Ally, who revealed that works commenced in this regard since June 17 last. The works entail some repairs to roads in the compound, the drainage system and also to overhaul the pavilion there. “We want to bring that facility back to its former glory…The playground there used to be a venue for first class cricket, so we are spending some money to do what we are calling ‘the enhancement of the environment’.”
Last year, a sum of about $44M was allocated to upgrade the facilities there, and according to Ally, a substantial amount of works was completed then.
“We believe that we have to treat the patients at the psychiatric hospital with respect so we are doing all we can to improve the facilities there.”
The Cheddi Jagan Dental Centre, situated at Carmichael Street in Georgetown, is also slated to undergo rehabilitation works, valued at some $2M. That facility was also exposed to some much needed works last year which now sees it including classrooms and a more child-friendly atmosphere.
“We were able to put in a paediatric unit…We are trying to upgrade the quality of delivery of dental care and health services generally,” Ally noted.
Some $37M has also been allocated for the upgrading of the West Demerara Regional Hospital. The contract for this project entails the rehabilitation of the operating theatre among other buildings and according to Ally, “reports suggest that works have been progressing well.”
The Skeldon hospital has also been earmarked for substantial rehabilitation and extension works to upgrade the quality of service offered. An amount of $23M has been allocated for this project. Another $6M is expected to be focused on the doctors’ quarters at Mabaruma, a project which has already commenced, Ally said.
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