By Collin Charles, Senior Prosthetic Technician
& Samuel Chigbo, MD, Orthotist/Prosthetist
This will be the first in a series of articles celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre/National Rehabilitation Complex (1967 – 2017). Each article will highlight the contributions of the Centre to Guyana, and each will focus on a different service provided by the Complex.
Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre (PRRC) was originally established in January 1967 by the Ministry of Public Health, with the responsibility for the rehabilitation of children with paralysis following the poliomyelitis epidemics of the 1960s.
With the eradication of poliomyelitis, the Centre repositioned itself to serve not only children with congenital disabilities, but also adults with acquired disability.
In an effort to improve resources acquisition so as to diversify and provide quality service that was more efficient and effective, PRRC was de-linked from the Ministry of Health and registered as the National Rehabilitation Complex, a non-profit company, managed by a Board of Directors.
The government provides annual subvention and professional staff, whilst the Board is responsible for financing all other programmes and activities.
These changes in management approach saw the metamorphosis of the range of services offered by the Centre, giving rise to the evolution of the National Prosthetic & Orthotic Appliance Workshop (O&P Workshop), initially a small unit of catering only for the children of the Centre, to a facility capable manufacturing any form of appliance required by disabled individuals, irrespective of age.
Today, the O&P Workshop being the only rehabilitation facility in Guyana with the capacity to design and fabricate prostheses and orthoses, has given service to over 2000 Guyanese since the inception of the Workshop in 1994. The introduction of this type of facility at a rehabilitation centre was recognized as a wise investment by Government.
In addition to drastically reducing the number of persons having to travel abroad in need of this service, it increased a number of public servants’ reentry to the workplace, with functional capacity close to that prior to injury.
The need for improving current human resources, as well as working hard to nurture and create new ones, cannot be overstated, considering the necessity and importance of the role these human resources have on national growth and development.
Bearing in mind that “a nation’s true wealth does not lie in her natural resources, rather it lies in her human resources,” PRRC gears her efforts to include not only rehabilitation of children, but also adults with various disabilities ranging from congenital to acquired deformities. These conditions include limb discrepancy, club foot, kyphosis, lordosis, flat foot, foot drop, spinal trauma, osteoarthritis of the limbs, poliomyelitis, upper and lower limb amputation, to mention but few.
The activities and services provided by this team of rehabilitation specialists comprising the doctor, physiotherapist, prosthetist, orthotist, nurses and technicians has indeed transformed the lives of many citizens by putting them back to their various jobs, living a life of self-sufficiency rather than becoming a burden to their loved ones and liability to the nation.
More so, the psychological effect of living with reality of the loss of a limb which plays a vital role in day-to-day activity of an individual can trigger depression, social withdrawal, and even psychological consequences. This cascade of mental instability can lead to mortality. Providing prostheses to amputees has given them a second chance to live, counteracting the psychological effects of amputation.
Recognizing the need for prosthesis and acknowledging the occupational challenges confronting our patients, the O&P Workshop designs the prosthesis to suit the nature of a job, activity level of the old and the young, while taking into consideration the financial burden the design might have upon the patient.
Based on this, the PRRC subsidizes the cost of prostheses and orthoses that are manufactured by the O&P Workshop, allowing the patient to pay for the material cost, while the overhead cost is absorbed by the Centre, the government, and National Insurance Scheme. Other NGOs have consistently supported persons with disabilities (pwds) with the financial cost of appliances.
The indispensable role played by the Workshop cannot be overemphasized hence the need to recognise the work and effort of this Centre to maintain human resources through rehabilitation should be of paramount interest to the government, NGOs, private sector, and the masses.
The work of the PRRC can be enhanced through adequate funding and partnership with the Centre, voluntary donations and services, and most of all employing pwds in the public and private services once they have the necessary skills.
Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre lives by example, setting the pace for other agencies, organizations, private and public sectors to emulate. This exemplary action is exhibited the Management of the Centre as they employ persons who have undergone rehabilitation with the Centre, after being certified by the team of rehabilitation officers, thus making them productive and financially competent to see to their daily needs.
Approximately 15 members of staff, who underwent rehabilitation for various disabilities, have been employed and currently work at the Centre, having been fully integrated into the society.
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