A Paediatric Accident and Emergency (A&E) Unit should have long been in place at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). In fact, the absence of this facility was one that was gaining the attention of former Minister of
Public Health, Dr. George Norton.
During a recent interview with this publication, he noted that “the last idea I had, and I’d hoped I could have made it into a reality, was to create an accident and emergency unit for the Paediatric Unit.”
After serving as Senior Minister of Public Health for nearly two years Minister Norton was re-assigned to deal with Social Cohesion.
The Minister told Kaieteur News of some of the infrastructural issues that had gained his attention. The need for the Paediatric A&E was among these. According to him, such a unit was seen as important since it could serve to reduce possible infection.
“If a mother takes her baby to the Accident and Emergency Department today, that mother and her child could be exposed to Tuberculosis or some other infectious disease, and you can imagine what can happen,” said Minister Norton.
“This (Paediatric A&E) could reduce a great deal of infection, because no baby goes to the paediatric ward alone, and sometimes a mother isn’t the only one accompanying the baby…Sometimes the whole family goes with her… and added to this you will be reducing overcrowding in the existing A&E department,” said Minister Norton.
According to the Minister, a space was already identified for the Paediatric A&E.
“We knew it didn’t need to be as large as that for the adults, but the important thing is that once it is in place it would separate the adults from the children,” said Minister Norton. He added, “Currently there isn’t any space near the existing Accident and Emergency Unit to suitably accommodate such an undertaking.”
The area that has been identified for the Paediatric A&E is the patio of the GPHC Paediatric Ward. This area, according to Minister Norton, seems particularly suitable, since it is close to an area where doctors and nurses function.
“My expectation was that doctors already on staff could work there after (16:00 hours) when the Paediatric Clinic is closed…This area, I think, can be made comfortable, where babies can be resuscitated, oxygen therapy can take place, and the young patients can be observed,” said Minister Norton.
He is optimistic that this venture could still be brought to fruition, since a number of individuals had signalled their desire to donate to a Paediatric A&E.
“We should have this unit well prepared for our children with cartoon characters painted on the walls, and so that they can feel a sense of comfort as they recuperate,” said Dr. Norton.
But this is only one of the projects that Dr. Norton was hoping to bring to fruition.
According to the Minister, Government had long been hoping to bring into being other significant changes at the GPHC. He disclosed that large sums of money were spent to hire consultants to evaluate and make recommendations for the GPHC.
“The recommendations were there, we got funding, but it was never carried out to its fullest, that is why I could have stood up and showed to the National Assembly the plan that was originally there for the GPHC…it was literally cut in half, and when you had plans to build a hospital with a certain size to accommodate a certain number of patients and you have to reduce that, you end up with what is happening there,” Minister Norton reflected.
He pointed out that the situation that obtains is that “persons are admitted, but sometimes they have to end up two days at the Accident and Emergency department because you don’t have beds for them.”
“One could remember the days when we had a thousand beds available at GPHC, but now if we have 400 with an increased population and more persons going there, we will run into difficulties,” Minister Norton asserted.
He said that although there were many ideas to transform the delivery of health care, such as the specialty hospital and the subsequent changing from a specialty hospital to one of maternal and child health, many have not materialised. There were even ideas on how to improve the actual site of the Georgetown Hospital.
“There were plans to make the Georgetown Public Hospital itself larger; lots of thoughts and papers were written on this. But what we don’t want is what is taking place right now,” said Minister Norton.
He said that while some amount of money was spent on refurbishing the maternity unit, that was only done to last for some 10 years.
“It was not meant to last longer, since it was not broken down and built over, but lo and behold a permanent structure was subsequently built and attached to that…It was like somebody waking up one morning, getting a brain wave and just rushing with it…We are in need of it, but I don’t think that was the way to go,” said Minister Norton.
He added, “I think we have got to look at this whole health care delivery thing in a long term, holistic approach, you just can’t be building a little piece and attaching it unto a structure that is not meant to last for more than 10 years, and hope that it is going to work the way it should.”
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