The Ministry of Public Health lacks the capacity to ensure that all healthcare providers countrywide are licensed, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Shamdeo Persaud revealed last Friday.
The CMO made this disclosure during a brief meeting at the National Blood Transfusion Centre,
where he handed out 22 health facilities licences to various public and private healthcare institutions.
While Persaud lauded the early handing out of licences as a commendable improvement over the previous year, the achievement pales when it is compared to the number of health facilities that are in operation nationwide. This amounts to 372 health facilities.
Health facility licences, according to the Health Facilities Licensing Act, are only valid for one year. Hence, each facility must apply to have its licence renewed annually.
Dr. Persaud urged more health facilities to apply for licensing since, so far; only 94 healthcare providers have done so for the year. Last year, he said, the Ministry issued licensing to 54 health facilities.
Some of the licences that were handed out are provisional, meaning that the facilities must still meet certain other recommendations to achieve complete certification for the year. Persaud said that the Ministry will continue to work with those facilities to rectify their non-compliance.
There are different types of licences that the act provides for, which have specific requirements, depending on the type of service it provides. Some of the basic requirements include adequate washing facilities, proper recording systems, spaces for confidential consultations, proper cleaning and waste disposal mechanisms, enough water and proper toilet facilities. These are necessary, said Persaud, “so when someone comes to a licensed facility, they [can] expect to receive a full package of service”.
Even with the licences, some providers have, the Ministry has had to relax some requirements to license them. This was revealed when a representative of Balwant Singh Hospital spoke about the importance of ensuring facilities are licensed. She said that there were times when she wasn’t sure which facility to refer her patients to for dialysis services. She iterated that the law requires a provider of dialysis services to have a full-time nephrologist on staff, but Dr. Persaud said that, if a medical practitioner is not a specialist, the organisation is still allowed to practice, if the practitioner has some certification in the field.
Persaud said that for abortion service providers, there are regulations that must also be adhered to, from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1995. Pharmacies, he said, receive a different category of licensing, under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act.
For the providers taken care of under the Health Facilities Licensing Act, the Ministry endeavours to meet facilities starting from level five, with a target of meeting all level two providers. He said that Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the other specialised institutions are at level five. Level four are regional hospitals, level three are district hospitals, and level two are health centres. Health posts, of which there are 126, are Level One.
Dr. Persaud told the gathering that, apart from the 22 licences handed out, 25 health facilities licences are currently pending, while inspections are completed by the ministry’s team.
The team is made up of a multi-stakeholder board of healthcare representatives from all administrative regions, which meets once per month. Also on the board are stakeholders from institutions like the Bureau of standards and the Environmental Protection Agency. The facilities are expected to provide a report to the board, and the team evaluates, then provides recommendations to the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.
The Ministry has been the subject of criticism and picketing exercises by local activists, who have complained about the level of service being provided to the general public, by both public and private healthcare institutions. It has also been criticised due to a perception that it does not sufficiently regulate private healthcare providers. Activist, Sherlina Nageer, had said that the healthcare system is structured to have poor and working class Guyanese at a disadvantage because this is the demographic that predominantly utilises public healthcare.
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