– lab facilities to reach international standard
– drug procurement woes to become a thing of the past
While over $27 billion was slated to be expended in the health sector this year, Government will augment its spending in this regard next year to $31.2 billion. This disclosure was made on Monday by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, as he presented the highly anticipated 2017 national budget.
According to the Minister, the national health sector strategy – the Health Vision 2020 – will continue to guide investments and interventions in the sector, with the ultimate aim of achieving universal coverage for health care. He however noted that “we cannot hope to achieve this vision without an efficient, modern health system, (but) with adequate human capacity and quality health infrastructure. We must address these core issues, which hamper our ability to address serious health challenges such as the proliferation of non-communicable diseases, mental health, and emerging diseases such as (the) Zika (Virus).”
Moreover, a key focus of Government in the coming year, the Finance Minister said, will be to examine a multi-sectoral, low-carbon approach to development, which prioritises improvements in public health.
The Minister underscored that the investment in health infrastructure and the ability to attract skilled health human resources are critical for delivering specialist health services, especially in remote hinterland communities.
For this year already, the Public Health Ministry expended $48.4 million on medical evacuation (medevac) services for 93 cases that could not be treated in their respective regions. These cases were referred to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), the national referral hospital. However, the focus, in 2017, the Minister said, will be on equipping and upgrading district hospitals to deliver the full suite of mandated services, as this would lead to greater equity between the hinterland and coastland.
Additional specialists, specialising in areas such as paediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, dental, and general surgery, will be deployed in Regions One, Eight, and Nine, the Minister said, as he disclosed that Government has allocated $2 billion for the improvement and maintenance of health infrastructure countrywide.
Accordingly, particular emphasis will be placed on upgrading health facilities for district level hospitals and comfortable living quarters to attract the necessary medical personnel in the hinterland, in areas such as: Baramita, Bartica, Kamarang, Mahdia, Port Kaituma, and Annai.
Another priority area of focus, Minister Jordan said, “is bringing our laboratory facilities up to a modern and international standard.” To this end progress is being made by the Food and Drug Department to gain accreditation for its laboratories, which certify food product manufacturers, exporters, and re-packagers.
Moreover, Government has budgeted a sum of $110 million for the Department to begin construction of a new laboratory and administrative building, and a further $65 million will be used to procure laboratory supplies, quality control aids, and proficiency testing materials.
In addition, the National Public Health Reference Laboratory will also aim to strengthen its Quality Management System (QMS) with the end goal of achieving the International Organisation for Standards’ ISO:15189 accreditation relating to quality management system requirements.
“This will minimise our dependence on overseas testing,” Minister Jordan confidently asserted, as he turned his attention to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Acceleration Framework (MAF) to improve maternal health. This framework identifies five bottlenecks and proposes solutions that continue to guide the interventions to address maternal health.
According to Minister Jordan, efforts will be made to supplement the ongoing work of the Maternal and Child Health Unit, even as he pointed out that the initiative – Support to Improve Maternal Child Health – will come online, in the new year, with the support of a development partner.
Upon successful implementation, Minister Jordan said that this US$8 million project will contribute to the reduction of maternal, perinatal, and neonatal deaths in Guyana by: (i) Strengthening the primary level of care for health services in Regions Three, Four and Nine; (ii) Improving the supply chain for contraceptive methods, drugs, and blood products; (iii) Strengthening of the maternity waiting home strategy, including the development of individual and community plans to support women and newborns; (iv) Improving health information; (v) Training of health workers in the Regions previously stated; and (vi) Strengthening the capacity of the MCH Unit.
Mental health will also be gaining keen attention. The Minister emphasised that recognising one’s mental health is as important as one’s physical health, and in light of the upsurge in suicides, Government has prioritised training of health professionals. A total of 250 of these health workers were trained in 2016, and over 300 of them will be targeted in 2017, according to Minister Jordan.
“We expect to begin construction of the Mental Health Institute in the second half of the upcoming year…” said Minister Jordan who also disclosed yesterday that over $6.5 billion has been allocated in the 2017 budget to procure drugs and medical supplies to treat citizens who access public health facilities.
“Although we have been budgeting adequate sums of money, our population continues to experience frequent non-availability of drugs and medical supplies at almost every public health facility, suggesting a number of problems in the procurement, storage, and distribution systems,” the Minister acknowledged. However, he assured that this problem will be arrested by ensuring that the process is informed by data-driven health information systems in order to ensure more consistent supplies and avoidance of waste.
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