Heads will roll among Public Health Ministry staffers guilty of abusing international donations and whose departments under-perform forcing chunks of its budget to return annually to the Finance Ministry.
Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, sounded the dual warning on Monday during her feature address at the Maternal and Child Health/Expanded Programme on Immunisation (MCH/EPI) quarterly review meeting. The venue was Grand Coastal Hotel, Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara.
The meeting ended yesterday.
Minister Lawrence expressed outrage that international donations given to boost Guyana’s health sector programme were converted for personal use by Ministry officials. Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, had earlier complained about the misuse of transportation donated to help the Ministry’s immunisation programme in the hinterland.
Turning her attention to budgetary initiatives of her Ministry, Lawrence told participants at the two-day MCH/EPI review meeting to maximise spending on budgetary initiatives.
“Spend money on that for which it is allocated. If that doesn’t happen somebody will be going home,” Minister Lawrence warned.
For that to happen the procurement system must be strengthened and the belated arrival of projects for funding from the 10 Regions has to end.
“The Regions fetch the health programme; if you don’t tackle the Regions you don’t tackle health,” an experienced staffer explained.
Lawrence wants officials to examine, critically, “The progress we have made, the challenges we still face and…formulate a comprehensive Action Plan that will be used to overcome the challenges and produce the desirable outcomes.”
“I want to reiterate that monitoring and appropriate management of our health systems are intrinsic to us making substantial progress. No notable achievement can be made without Standards, Measurable Goals and Best Practices of which all involved must be au fait.
Our hinterland Regions must be an integral part of this process, so let us circumvent the constraints and map out an effective programme for the Maternal and Child Health Department and the Expanded Immunization Initiative,” Minister Lawrence stressed.
Despite the challenges the Minister, Dr. Adu-Krow and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud pointed out at a ceremony to mark the start of the MCH/EPI meeting, that Guyana’s health sector has made several notable gains.
“In the Health Situation Analysis of the CCS 2016-2020, it was noted that since 2010, Guyana has recorded high levels of immunization coverage for which we are extremely happy. It means, therefore, that we must always remain one step ahead, that our procurement process for supply of vaccines is efficient, and that we are prepared to effectively deal with any threat or outbreak,” said Minister Lawrence.
She continued, “We must also ensure that these vaccines can easily reach our hinterland Regions, that the monitoring process is well established and that there is ongoing training of personnel for new vaccines and for Effective Vaccine Management.”
To maintain the momentum, the Public Health Ministry must improve its facilities, have adequate trained personnel in all Regions to lessen complaints about unprofessional behaviour and attitudes and improve the level of patient care, the Minister asserted.
“We must implement Standards and Best Practices for our Clinics and Health Centers. Our mandate is to reduce the incidence of maternal and child mortality, so it is extremely important that our human resource is educated and trained, so that they in turn can inform and teach the mothers who attend clinic sessions,” Lawrence told the opening ceremony.
In the short-term there will be heightened sensitisation and awareness programmes focusing on the behaviours that can be changed to reduce incidences of non-communicable diseases.
Lawrence also wants national discourse on tobacco and alcohol use and physical inactivity and the consequences of these on peoples’ health.
“We must strive harder to lessen the number of obese children and encourage healthier eating habits and lifestyles,” Lawrence said.
In her address too, she reiterated Guyana’s commitment to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly Goal Three which foresees healthy lives and promotion of the well-being for all at all ages.
This, Lawrence said, referring to SDG number three, “Is our priority, so let us over the next two days establish the achievements we have made and devise innovative strategies that will impact on the vision we have for advancing primary health care for all our citizens.”
Among the new target of the SDG three is a reduction of the Meales, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) to less 70 per 100,000 by 2030, Dr. Adu-Krow said.
He added that also among its vision is ending preventable deaths of new-borns and children under five years of age “with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality to as low as 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.”
Between 20 and 22 per cent of 15 – 19-year olds in Guyana become pregnant, according to Ministry figures quoted by Dr. Adu-Krow. The PAHO/WHO Representative also assured Guyana of continued help in several areas this year. These include the completion of the PMTCT elimination report through data collection; review the family health manual; build capacity in neonatal, maternal and adolescent health-training programmes for health care workers; procurement of needed obstetric equipment; share the findings of the recent perinatal and neonatal survey which was completed in 2016, and follow up on certification of health workers on the training in reproductive care.
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