Although continuous efforts are being made within the public health sector to reduce patients’ waiting time, there are still occasions when it seems that waiting is imperative.
There have been repeated complaints from persons utilising the service of public health facilities that they are forced to wait for prolonged periods before they can receive any medical attention.
However Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, has asserted that “reducing the waiting time certainly can’t happen overnight. It is not going to happen immediately….”
He explained that while the health sector is now able to place doctors where there were none, the intention is also to add new doctors to complement the existing quota. But the immediate impact, he notes, will not be truly realised until even more doctors are inducted into the system.
“Of course whenever we add a doctor to an existing one we are most definitely going to have less waiting time. But for now our first priority is to put doctors where there are no doctors. This is not going to happen right away because it is not just adding doctors to existing services but we are also adding new services.”
With the annual introduction of new doctors to the public health sector, the Health Minister has voiced confidence in the fact that the waiting time at public health facilities would be noticeably reduced.
He first vocalised this theory last year, shortly after a batch of Cuban-trained Guyanese doctors had returned to their homeland to offer their service.
According to the Minister although there will always be some amount of waiting time for patients to endure, the public health sector will continue to work towards shortening the overall wait. He had speculated that the introduction of new doctors will adequately help to address the problem of long waiting periods, a problem which is common primarily at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
“Overall the GPHC has done an excellent job but the chronic problem it has, in terms of its services, has been long waits. Sometimes 200 people have a need to be treated but there is only one doctor.” However, with the new batch and other batches to come, the Minister had disclosed that the Ministry will be able to reduce the waiting period by putting more doctors in the areas that usually have large amount of patients.
Regional hospitals, he noted, will benefit in like manner. Facilities such as the New Amsterdam, Suddie, Linden and the West Demerara hospitals will have more doctors and by extension, this will reduce patients’ need to visit the GPHC.
Additional doctors will also be placed at the district hospitals and at the Diagnostic centres, to ensure that there are sufficient staffers at those levels as well, thus allowing for equity of the health service delivered. And then there will be the introduction of doctors at health centres, a development which will see doctors being assigned to clusters of health centres.
For example, he said that all 27 health centres of Region Six will have doctors assigned to them. “They will not be there on an everyday basis; they don’t need to have them all the time. But they will be supporting the medexes and nurses that are available at the health centres.”
However, he noted that some Regions such as Region Four, that have large Health Centres, will have a doctor assigned on a fulltime basis. With the addition of the doctors at varying levels of the health sector, the Minister asserted that citizens will now have greater access to doctors, adding that from the national referral hospital all the way to the health posts there will be doctors available.
“This changes the paradigm…In Guyana it used to be that the only the National and Regional hospitals had doctors and some districts had, but this will change.
On the continuum we will have doctors leading the provision of services and the consequence will be improved health care for the people.”
But even as the additional doctors are strategically placed, the Minister disclosed that the Health Ministry will be faced with more daunting challenges as it relates to training and retaining support staff.
He stressed that the effectiveness of the doctors will be dependent on meeting their need for support teams. As such, he noted that the Ministry’s training programmes in other areas will have to be accelerated over the next few years.
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