It was just last week that I commented on child abuse. No sooner had I written a column that I learnt of a father who pushed the hands of two very young children into boiling water. Needless to say, he is in jail. He was taken to court almost immediately and he pleaded guilty. He will be spending close to eighteen months in prison.
This brought back memories of the man who did the same to his son more than thirty years ago. The child had taken a piece of meat from his plate. This man also went to jail but unlike this case, the child lost all his fingers.
I used to see him gambling in the vicinity of the Bourda Market. That was when I realized that the cruelty meted out to this child simply put another youngster on the streets.
There is only so much the authorities could do but if only those tasked to do so could be firm. The man who burnt the hands of his two children was said to be an abusive spouse, so abusive that his wife left him. Unlike most mothers, she left the children in his care.
Having said that, I am forced to look at the situation that seems to be prevailing in the Ministry of Public Health. On Thursday, the Parliamentary opposition hosted a press conference at which the members highlighted a host of shortcomings.
It transpired that there was a lot of money spent to acquire drugs, but there continued to be a massive shortage. The parliamentarians reported that in one case, the shortage was so severe that doctors in New Amsterdam could not perform some 400 elective surgeries. There was just no anaesthetic.
There was the laughable piece of information. The hospital required a seal for use after fluid is drained from the cavity area. The requisition went out, but someone bought a submersible pump instead. Further, many pieces of equipment were nonfunctioning.
I called Mr. Colin Bynoe, the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, and I learnt that there were many things that contributed to the situation. He said that there was a dispenser who did wonders with drug supplies. Mandrake could not have done better. This dispenser simply made drugs disappear.
He was placed before the courts, but was kept on the job until someone got wise and sent him off. Bynoe said that this happened after the visit by the parliament committee that was visiting the hospitals on a motion that all was not well with the supply of drugs.
He told me of the operations of the regional tender board and the practice of accepting the lowest bids. This permitted people to buy cheap and submit equipment that collapsed almost as soon as they were installed.
He assured me that a lot has changed, that the situation is now a far cry from what it was when the parliamentary team visited. Mr. Bynoe said that politics played a very big part in the report that was eventually made by the visitors. They met quietly with a team member and fed information that might not have been entirely accurate.
Yet reports from other parts of the country suggest that there is a lot wrong. Insulin is said to non-existent, as are drugs needed to treat non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Member of Parliament Juan Edghill said that the Minister of Public Health told him that there was a lot of pilfering; that a medical practitioner was caught with his pocket full of insulin vials. He concluded that even if this man had fifty vials that could not explain the absence of insulin in stock.
I want to accept his argument, except to add that this might not have been the only person spiriting out the drugs.
In one case, a shipment of drugs sent to the Suddie Hospital disappeared before it could reach its destination.
These things are now coming to the surface, but I shudder to think want went on in the past. Small wonder that the private dispensaries were doing so well. They always seemed to be well stocked.
I know for certain that theft is widespread at the Materials Management Unit. The evidence suggests that eight out of ten of the workers remove large supplies in collusion with the guards. An examination of some of these persons would reveal that they are wealthy beyond what their salaries could have afforded.
I agree with the Parliamentary Opposition that there is rampant corruption in the Health Ministry. The problem is to plug the various loopholes. Every new member put in the system is introduced to the racket, because money can buy a lot. The few honest ones are pushed out through various means.
Word has it that the authorities, in an effort to stop the widespread theft of pharmaceuticals, are contemplating dispensing with generic drugs. This would mean that they would buy only brand name drugs. But I hasten to say that this would push up the medical bill to unprecedented heights.
Dr Carl Niamatali once said to me that he could stop the pilfering. Pharmaceuticals imported by the government would be effectively stamped, so that if they are sold in any location the buyer would know that the drug was government supply.
When all is said and done Guyana has to be a very sick population for such a large volume of drugs to be swallowed up in the market place. Whatever the case, I must support Mr. Edghill in his call for an audit of the drug purchases and supplies. For me, too much money is leaking from the system, even as some sections of the society want better pay.
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