The continued operation of the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI) may very well be in jeopardy if a new Cardiac
Catherisation Laboratory (commonly referred to as a Cath Lab) is not completed in the very near future.
The Cath Lab is one that is usually outfitted with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualise the arteries and chambers of the heart in order to treat any stenosis or abnormality found.
However, this publication understands that the CHI Cath Lab that has been in place since 2006 is one that is in dire need of replacement if it is to sustain an optimal operation. CHI, which is considered a public/private partnership, is housed in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). Since its establishment, CHI has been offering a priceless service to patients suffering from heart conditions.
CHI was founded by Cardiac Surgeon, Gary Stephens, a Lindener who migrated to the United States many years ago. Dr. Stephens was able to pursue studies in the field of cardiology and has been able to make a name for himself in this regard.
Dr. Stephens, who is the Chief Executive Officer of CHI, also holds a reputable place at the Maimonides Medical Centre in Brooklyn, New York.
This publication understands that it was around 2011 that the management of CHI consulted with Government about acquiring a new Cardiac Cath Lab in light of the fact that the facility was operating on a public/private basis. This was required since the existing Cath Lab was nearing the end of its useful life.
Reports are that there were expectations that moves would have been made to put in place a lab that could do both cardiology intervention and cardiac surgery in a single room known as a Hybrid Room.
With a Hybrid Room in place CHI, and by extension, Guyana would have been the first in the Caribbean to offer such advanced technology.
In the quest to move in this direction, a proposal to put the needful measures in place was prepared by the management of CHI and forwarded to Government which in turn, adopted it and took it to Parliament for approval. The proposal was able to secure support from both sides of the House allowing for monies to be approved for the procurement of the requisite measures to revamp the facility.
Reports are that the negotiations were had with the American-based General Electric (GE) Company which afforded Government a competitive price to cater to the setting up of the Hybrid Room.
Based on an agreement, GE was expected to deliver the equipment directly into the finished Room. As such construction works soon ensued to house the Hybrid facility. Throughout the construction there were sustained discussions between the Government side and that of the management of CHI. However, according to a source close to the project, by the time the last critical 25 per cent of the works was left, the management of CHI was no longer included in the discussions.
This, understandably, resulted in the project, which should have taken a mere two months, coming to a practical standstill. The project has been ongoing for the past 14 months.
Because of the stalled project, GE (based on a specified timeframe detailed in the agreement with Government) delivered the equipment to the hospital. And since GE technicians were not able to install the equipment, the resulting state of affairs was damage to the tune of US$1M. A source close to the project informed this publication that GE has refused to take responsibility for cost which Government will have to cover using taxpayers’ money.
Currently, the equipment delivered by GE has been left sitting a short distance from the hospital pharmacy (East Street entrance) covered merely with a tarpaulin. This publication has not yet been able to ascertain the reason for the stalling of the project.
According to GE, this is improper storage and there is no guarantee that the equipment will function optimally when installed. Of even more concern is whether GE will be willing to honour its warranty for the equipment.
When contacted for a comment on the prevailing state of affairs, Dr. Stephens would only say that “a delay in the project could result in the closure of the Heart Institute.” Although unwilling to lay blame, he did intimate that “any day now our machine can suffer a catastrophic failure and even if it doesn’t I don’t see us surviving the next six months.”
This publication understands that CHI was forced to expend in excess of $60M to ensure that its current equipment remain in working order. According to Dr. Stephens without urgent progression of the project the future of CHI will remain uncertain and “it’s a shame after all the hard work and goodwill that kept it afloat. I hope we will survive but the service we offer will be restricted.”
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