– Patients being transferred to facility without critical equipment and staff in place
By Shikema Dey
It would cost the APNU+AFC government “three times” the whopping $1.6 billion construction cost to acquire the needed medical equipment to furnish the recently commissioned Ocean View Infectious Diseases Hospital, according to de facto Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.
Lawrence was at the time responding to a question on whether the $1.6 billion construction cost for the facility, sitting on more than five acres of prime land at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, also accounted for equipment. To this, the Health Minister gave a short laugh then asked “No… $1.6 billion for equipment?”
“Equipment for this facility,” Lawrence continued “is going to cost probably three times that.”
Giving her reasons behind this, she stated that due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the same equipment they would need to source is in high demand all across the world.
Initially, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had said that to transform the former hotel building into a state of the art facility would cost $1 billion, or US $5 million; however, at the ceremony, the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Colette Adams revealed that construction amounted to $1.6 billion, or US $8 million.
President Granger, who was also present at the commissioning, was questioned on the exuberant spending government undertook for the hospital he responded only that it was conducted within the ambit of the law. However, no information was revealed to account for the extra $600 million added to the initial construction cost. Questions relating to that issue, the purchase cost for the property and where government will source the funds to acquire the equipment from remain unanswered.
Questions are also already beginning to mount regarding the absence of both critical equipment and medical professionals at the facility meant to tackle the high influx of COVID-19 patients in Guyana. To date, Guyana has over 400 cases of the virus and that figure continues to climb daily.
Inadequate equipment, inadequate staff
One senior public health staffer lamented to Kaieteur News that COVID-19 patients are still being sent to the hospital despite the fact the facility is ill-prepared to provide basic critical care those infected with the virus.
“The hospital has no piped oxygen to the designated ICU much less the wards, yet this is the hospital to look after patients with respiratory illnesses,” the staffer said.
The person pointed out that the construction of the billion-dollar building was highly flawed because it lacked the basic amenities needed for an Infectious Diseases Sanatorium. For example, he noted that the GPHC has refused to send patients there unless they have piped oxygen installed. He stated that their plan was to use 100lb cylinders for the patients but this would only supply a few hours of needed oxygen from each bottle “at most.”
“They are boasting of a 42-bed Intensive Care Unit so, I suppose their plan is to have trucks moving continuously between DOCOL and the hospital, all day and night. No HEPA filters, no negative pressure or nothing that an infectious disease hospital should have.”
The staffer, who requested anonymity, told this publication that a site visit was done before the opening and when the lack of equipment was revealed, it was decided that the GPHC would continue to house high risk patients in their Intensive Care Unit (ICU) despite the Ocean View Hospital being built for this purpose. Senior staffers were asked not to reveal that detail while the problem was being rectified.
“They should have paid an architect with experience building health facilities,” the source told Kaieteur News “, but they probably sat around a table with a few Guyanese experts’, maybe doctors who work at MOPH or the emergency room or something. They refuse to share the info or plans so we can attempt to help.”
The person further explained that software can be easily found online to help visualize traffic flows, airflows in such hospitals, something, they opined, government did not appear to have done any research on.
“Otherwise,” the source argued, “how would they design a hospital to treat respiratory diseases without oxygen?”
Continuing, on the issue of medical personnel, the staffer stated that the Health Ministry had wanted to move doctors and nurses from Georgetown Public Health Corporation to staff the new facility despite knowing that GPHC is short staffed.
“There is no infectious disease specialist,” they lamented “and we will still have to take the critically ill patients because their white elephant cannot.”
The source told this publication that the Ministry has identified around three dozen Cubans and newly graduated medical students, but expressed concerns because none of those selected “has a clue on how to manage this crisis”.
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