-Key Health legislation to be taken to National Assembly
The National Health Policy Committee had not been meeting for more than two years. But under the stewardship of Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton, this and other worrying aspects of the sector, will be changed.
Dr. Norton, who is expected to chair the Committee, said that it will resume its operations so that the necessary legislation can be brought before the National Assembly.
These include the Health Promotion and Protection Bill to replace the Public Health Ordinance of 1934, the Nurses and Midwives Bill to replace the Nurses and Midwives Ordinance of 1954, the new Tobacco Control Bill to reduce the impact of tobacco on the health of the people in Guyana, the new Organ Donation Bill, Blood and Tissue Banking and Transplant Control Bill, the New Food Safety Bill, the new Proposed HIV/AIDS and STI Anti-Discrimination Bill and the Optometrist Practitioner Bill.
The Public Health Minister said that these will all be presented along with a series of regulations.
Improved Health Information
When it comes to the other enhancements in the health sector, Dr. Norton noted that the APNU/AFC Government intends to improve health information, intelligence, and research through an effective data gathering system. He said that data collected must be verified, interpreted, analyzed, and managed in order to utilize it.
The Parliamentarian said that as for the Management Information Unit of data collection at the Ministry of Public Health, from a staff of 17 in the past, it was found that only two persons were working. He promised that this will be corrected.
With respect to malaria, the Public Health Minister said that in 2013, there were roughly 31,000 cases reported but in 2014, this was dramatically reduced to 12,000 cases.
He said that this has caused the stakeholders, especially the international donor agencies, to question the accuracy of these figures especially since the Vector Control Unit has not changed its strategy and seems not to be able to explain this large reduction of cases when called upon to do so.
He cited this to prove how the system of data collection needs to be drastically improved.
Tackling Mental health
The Public Health Minister reminded that the past regime often claimed that the proposed Mental Health Unit was in place. “This was fictitious.”
He said that as important as this unit is to curbing the high rate of suicide in Guyana, it was non-functional.
“However, we have already put that in place and it is up and running and soon it will have its own centre,” he added.
Dr. Norton said that the coalition government is concerned that in spite of the past administration endorsing recommendations made by the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, very little seems to have been done about acting on them.
“One such recommendation is to treat health as a productive asset. This government will be advancing research to find new ways and modalities for health financing. This is especially so, since the time for an in depth evaluation for cost recovery might be necessary.
“Virtually little or no studies have been done on this topic but lots of dogmatic armchair assertions or speculations have been applied,” Dr. Norton said.
He added that the public will certainly be interested in having access to information with regards to the financial contribution of the Low Vision Unit to Georgetown Public Hospital and its relationship with Eye Care Guyana. Dr. Norton said, too that the hospital will have its own CT scan machine very soon.
The Public Health Minister said that the relationship that exists between the Government and private dialysis centres in Guyana might have to be reviewed since at the moment, Georgetown Public Hospital pays annually, millions of dollars to these centres for their services.
Dr. Norton said that since dialysis is being done at GPHC in reduced numbers, evaluation is being done to assess to what extent the Public Health Ministry needs to increase those services with the possibility of eliminating the use of the private Dialysis Centre.
Dr. Norton also disclosed that consideration will be given for the financing of Neonatology Intensive Care Units in regional hospitals.
The Public Health Minister said that the dearth of specialists in the health care system will be addressed. Plans are afoot to expand the post-grad programme in Guyana, source specialist training abroad and import specialist skills to support local capacity.
Dr. Norton said that the health system still needs specialists, particularly in pathology, radiology, psychiatry, oncology, physical medicine, neonatology and geriatrics.
He also said that the outstanding performance of health care providers will no longer go unnoticed as they will all be considered for National awards of a very high order.
The Public Health Minister added, “I will repeat, for emphasis, the need to review the eligibility of doctors with service bonds, to apply for local post-grad programmes…
The bulk of junior doctors now in the system have five years of service obligation consequence to that training. These doctors are expected to complete these obligations before entering any additional training programmes. I do not agree with this and this is where I differ from the past Minister of health. This is a disincentive for the physicians interested in the post-graduate training programmes.”
The Minister said that he has agreed to a number of recommendations, one of which includes the enrollment in the local post-grad programme to be counted as meeting services for undergraduate training.
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