Feb 12, 2016 News
By Suraj Narine
“This ministry has seven programmes and over $22.1B or 9.5% of the budget was expended in this sector in 2015, however, the government will spend about $28B, nearly six billion more than last year or 10.9 percent of the budget.”
Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, highlighted these facts during the Budget Debate on Wednesday evening at Parliament Building, Georgetown, as he explained that the Regional & Clinical Services of Programme four, will ensure that consistent and adequate quality health care is provided to all citizens across the ten administrative regions based on the ‘sound values of equity, solidarity and quality health services as a human right”.
Norton stated that a total of approximately $13.3B was allotted to this programme, of which $11.9B will be going to current expenditure.
“We will empower the regions, through training and increased human resources, so that this ministry can be successful in its plan to decentralize the regional system. A standard complement of staff for each region is being put in place to avoid the multi-tasking of the few existing staff,” the minister stated.
Norton also stated that his ministry will continue to deploy medical doctors and other personnel to hinterland regions, while pointing out that there already is in place a national plan to permanently position a physician in every health centre in Guyana.
“In this programme, $1.5B was also appropriated as capital expenditure, for we plan to complete all unfinished structures such as the health centre at Experiment, Bath (Region 5)…We will also make functional the brand new x-ray unit at Parika Health Centre which has never been used for three years and the other at the Leguan Hospital which has been there for 10 years and is not only unused, but unwrapped as well.”
Norton informed the House that last week the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the West Demerara Regional Hospital was reopened. The unit, with six brand-new incubators, is the fifth of its kind currently functioning in the country.
“Also, the spacious, air conditioned post-natal ward, which can accommodate as much as 15 beds surrounding this unit has now been made to function. Construction has started to put into use the maternity section of the Leonora Diagnostic Centre which once again, was not being utilized, with wholesome beds and other facilities standing idly by, for which $40M have been allotted. These will serve to avoid the bed-sharing in the GPHC maternity section.”
$30M has also been allotted for renovation work at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, Norton stated, and $15M is earmarked for the construction of a solid waste furnace for the Linden Hospital Complex.
SHORTAGE OF MEDICATION
“Contrary to reports that are being peddled by Regional politicians in the media and also in this House, about the shortages of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in the regions, our on-the-ground reports from our regional health officers and from information gathered from the various health facilities – huts and centres – that we have personally visited, indicate there are pharmaceutical and medical supplies in the regions, albeit a few shortages here and there,” Norton said.
He explained that the process for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies remains substantially “centralised with the exception of minor purchases that include small emergency supplies, medical gases and snake bite kits”
“The allocations have been distributed across the regions as a first step in improving the programme budgeting of health costs at a regional level, even as work is advancing on a costing exercise to determine the total costs of drugs expended in each region to address the disease profiles of the particular region”.
Norton continued that “procedurally”, the monies will be warranted back to the Ministry from the regions – as was the case last year – to facilitate centralised procurement and the benefits of economies of scale and requisite quality controls.
“This means that the REOs will send the agreed sums to the ministry and the ministry will pool all these monies and purchase drugs and medical supplies for the facilities across the regions.”
“Importantly, let me add Mr. Speaker that the drug supply system is far from perfect and to date, there has been no administration, especially during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)’s reign, that has had a situation free from shortages of drugs and medical supplies in some parts of the country.
Norton continued that the government is taking steps to strengthen the management of the drug supply chain and a detailed review of all aspects, from procurement to distribution to consumption, is being undertaken.
He also pointed out that the Government will ensure “adequate” drugs and medical supplies are provided in all facilities across the country.
“We are not there yet, but we intend to get there soon and fully resolve these issues well within our first term in office.”
Making reference to a presentation made by an opposition Member of Parliament who might have implied that there is a shortage of HIV testing kits across the country, Norton said that the statement was misleading, since there are “enough kits in this country at this moment to last for the rest of the year”.
DISABILITY & REHABILITATION SERVICES
The House was told that Disability and Rehabilitation Services has attracted an appropriation of $347M. Out of the capital expenditure of $26.6M, $9M will be used for the purchase of a 30-seater minibus and $11.5M for medical equipment including an ultrasound machine and a short wave diathermy. Another $5.7 M was earmarked for equipment which includes $4M for a generator set for the Cheshire Home.
“We have started up a sports medicine facility in the Castellani House compound. The audiology service has been transitioned from the analog to the digital hearing aids. The audiology and speech language therapy degree programme has commenced with support from the American Speech and Hearing Association to the University of Guyana and the Ministry of Public Health. We had capacity building and technical support of the local staff through visits by two speech language pathologists from the USA”.
Norton stated that the government will begin the process to develop new rehabilitation units in regions four, one (Port Kaituma) and 9 (Sand Creek).
“We shall continue to implement and review a national vocational training centre for persons with disabilities”.
The minister continued that “every effort” will be made to utilize PAHO/WHO’s support to implement the WHO global disability action plan 2014-2021, which involves training for teachers and healthcare providers on eye and ear care screening techniques.
“We will support the strengthening of a comprehensive registry on disability in accordance with the Guyana Persons with Disability Act. We are in the process of moving apace with the establishment of a training school for children, adolescents and young adults with special educational needs associated with disabilities.”
This, the Minister said, is with the cooperation and technical assistance agreement among CARICOM, Cuba and the Government of Guyana. The agreement will pave the way for the establishment of the training centre at a cost of $30M.
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