Jan 13, 2014 News
The worrying spate of violence, particularly that of a domestic nature, in the local society has not only prompted strategic action in the social sector but the health sector too has been playing a major role in helping, as far as possible, to arrest potential cases.
Several cases of domestic violence have, over the years, ended in death or with victims being maimed, in some instances, for life.
And the role of the health sector may very well be one of the most instrumental components in helping to combat such outcomes. This is in light of the fact that several of these violent cases, from the early stages, are often seen at various health facilities.
“A lot of these incidents start off with simple matters and a lot of these people may have had encounters with the health sector and I think we can intervene at that point and avoid the catastrophic outcomes that we do see,” said Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud.
Dr. Persaud, who was at the time entertaining an interview with this publication, disclosed that the Health Ministry has in place a Focal Point Person who has been working with young adults, particularly males, and other stakeholders in terms of looking at violence prevention with a view of building capacity among health workers to recognise cases of domestic violence.
“Of course we have the domestic violence provisions under the current (Domestic Violence) Act and we have implemented all the components that are necessary at the level of the health sector,” Dr. Persaud said.
Added to this, he explained that portions of the new Sexual Offences Act are also embraced by the health sector as there are requirements for health inputs in terms of examinations and collecting specimens.
And it was imperative that the two legislations – the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Act – be revised, as according to the CMO, the two in their former states had weaknesses whereby they lacked adequate provisions for gathering quality evidence. “The newer versions do actually give us the mandate to do that in a little bit more organised way…,” said Dr. Persaud who is of the firm belief that “the bigger part of the work though has to be done by the social sector…”
Nevertheless, he noted that the Health Ministry will continue to partner with various agencies such as Help and Shelter and the Human Services Ministry to put systems in place to combat the ever daunting domestic violence situation that plagues the society. In this regard, work has already begun to ensure that included in all health sector training programmes, among other things, is the subject of ‘intimate partner violence’.
According to Dr. Persaud, this is to ensure that all health workers are made aware of violent cases and gain a better understanding of how to do the correct assessments and treatments which should include: counselling and steering people towards needful assistance.
The health sector’s move to address the challenge of violence is being implemented even as greater focus is being directed to it mental health programme. It is believed that mental stability can in fact lend to a reduction in violent situations.
However, the CMO admitted that there yet remains a big gap when it comes to managing anxiety, depression, stress and the more complicated psychosis and neurosis cases.
He noted though that the Psychiatric Department at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation together with the National Psychiatric Hospital are tasked with focusing on the gross psychiatric illnesses which according to him are “the ones we classify with the bad word “mad” used by some people.” Dr. Persaud asserted though that there are other degrees of mental health conditions that can be addressed at the level of primary health care.
And under its current Strategic Plan – Health Vision 20/20 – the CMO said that the Health Ministry, with support from the Pan American Health Organisation, is working towards revising and finalising its primary health care strategy for mental health. According to him, moves are also being made to implement training programmes and training modules for mental health in training activities for all levels of health workers including medexes, doctors and nurses and even allied professionals.
In tackling the scourge of violence, the Health Ministry has forged collaborative ties with the Ministry of Homes Affairs to help address some cases of Trafficking in Persons (TIPs). As such a ‘Yellow Manual’ has been adopted by Guyana for health workers on TIPs in order to combat what the CMO dubbed “another subtle way of how violence is promulgated in our society.”
“We are looking to implement the guidelines for assessment, management, care and support for persons who are at risk for trafficking and who are trafficked,” Dr. Persaud disclosed.
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