What will it take for the authorities to recognize that there is a serious problem at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), which needs to be addressed? It ought not to have taken the deaths of two children to drive home to the authorities the concerns over healthcare at that public institution.
It was heart wrenching to have read reports about the deaths of those two children. And whatever is the determined cause of their deaths, it will not subtract from the concerns that the country’s only tertiary healthcare provider has not enjoyed an improvement in the quality of healthcare over the past three and a half years.
The Georgetown Public Hospital is a nightmare, which needs to be addressed before more people succumb. But some people have no choice but to utilize the services of that hospital, because private health care is prohibitively expensive.
Political interference and the politicization of the management is one of the principal reasons for the problems at the GPHC. A few years ago, it seemed as if there could have been a turnaround when Dr. Max Hanoman was appointed to be the Chairman of the GPHC. He began to professionalize operations and restore the standing of the hospital. But his tenure was short-lived, because politicians saw the hospital as a cash cow which they wanted to milk for the benefit of their cronies. The result was that a ‘fit and proper’ Chairman who had begun to turnaround the institution was ditched and the politicization of the management began. With dire consequences!
Guyana does not have a specialty hospital. Those children should have been treated in a specialty hospital. The APNU+AFC government, however, has decided that it would use funds allocated by India for such a hospital to upgrade public institutions.
What this means in practice is that specialty healthcare has to be provided at the GPHC alone. The hospital therefore cannot afford to losing critical specialists. It has lost critical skills for no reason other than politically-inspired decisions.
And this is unacceptable when people’s lives are at stake. Those persons who were victimized, forced out and sidelined at the GPHC were not competing for political office. They were not hoping to be robed in silk. Why therefore was it necessary for them to begin to feel unwanted? Their loss has weakened the institution.
There should be an impartial and independent investigation into the deaths of those two children and the sudden relapse of the other child who is now critically ill after reportedly receiving an injection. The investigation should be conducted by foreign specialists who have no links to the health care system. At the end of the investigation, the public must be receive the answers they seek – what was the cause of the deaths of the children; was negligence involved or were defective drugs used.
The GPHC should be commended for launching an investigation into the deaths of the children, but by now, it should realize that Guyanese will be wary about the findings of investigations conducted by health professionals into their own peers. This is why it is best that persons not connected to the local health sector be asked to undertake the inquiry into the deaths.
The GPHC’s credibility is bound to take a hit because of the deaths of the children. The hospital should therefore take steps to placate public concerns about the quality of healthcare offered at the GPHC.
Right now, there is a serious flu spreading across the country. The flu has not reached anywhere near epidemic proportions. But it has floored a number of adults and caused great distress to them. The health authorities have to be on their guard, because if this flu gets into the school population it can have serious consequences, judging from its debilitating effects on adults.
So far, no advisory has been issued by the Ministry of Public Health about this influenza outbreak. Perhaps, they have not found the outbreak to be that widespread or dangerous enough to necessitate such a warning.
But it is better to be forewarned. The deaths of those two children should be a wakeup call to the health authorities to put things in order and to reverse some of the negative policies, which plague the health sector.
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