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Painting a grim picturing of the Health Sector, Minister Juan Edghill, today, announced that $57.7B will be injecting into the sector to improve the quality of healthcare delivery in the country.
Though the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government had pride itself as having invested billions of dollars to increase access to healthcare services across the country while tackling Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases, Edghill said the upon assuming Office in August, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) found the Health Sector in an “unhealthy” state.
“Many hospitals, health centres and health posts across the country are in a state of disrepair, and lack the most basic of equipment. In addition, there is an acute shortage of drugs and medical supplies across every region. These chronic shortages, compounded with the mismanagement of the health care system, has compromised the care for thousands of Guyanese,” Minister Edghill contended.
At the time, he was presenting the National Budget to the National Assembly at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) in the notable absence of the main opposition political party – the APNU+AFC.
According to him, the $51.7B allocated to the Health Sector will provide for the purchase of adequate drugs and medical supplies, tests kits and anti-retrovirals for HIV patients, in addition to the rehabilitation and upgrade of health facilities throughout the country.
“Of this amount, $14.3 billion is budgeted for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies. Corrective action to facilitate the procurement of emergency supplies of drugs and medical supplies, to the tune of $3.2 billion, is underway, and a full review of quantification and procurement practices is being currently undertaken, as there is a lack of evidence of any purchased drugs and medical supplies since 2017,” Minster Edghill disclosed.
He said while the PPP/C Administration is working to address the immediate needs of the Health Sector, it is also considering a number of medium- and long-term projects. These include completing the SMART Hospital initiatives at Diamond, Paramakatoi, Mabaruma, Leonora and Lethem; and the redevelopment of the West Demerara, Suddie and Bartica Hospitals.
The Minister Edghill noted too that there are preliminary discussions on the operationalisation of a national electronic patient information system, however, records show that the area of interest has been under discussion for an extensive period.
It was noted that the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had a negative effect on a number of health programmes, among them the National AIDS Programme, which only achieved testing for 6,659 persons for January to June, of an annual target of 70,000. As a result of a shortage of HIV rapid test kits, the National Public Health Reference Laboratory reportedly restricted HIV testing to critical or emergency cases and priority target groups. To reel back the impact, Government has set aside some $143.3M for the procurement of HIV-related drugs and medical supplies. Simultaneously, it would also be seeking Global Fund support to significantly bolster national testing capacities.
The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) will also see an injection of Minister Edghill $15M to facilitate the extension of the accident and emergency and medical outpatient departments; and an additional $20M for the design of a four-storey building to relocate the pharmacy and medical records services, in addition to an on-call accommodation for healthcare providers.
“Overall, we have budgeted $11 billion for GPHC, for 2020, which includes $2.5 billion for drugs and medical supplies. The overall budgeted amount represents $1.4 billion more than was expended for the GPHC in 2019,” the Minister detailed.
With respect to the country’s health response to the COVID-19, Minister Edghill said $790 has been budgeted for equip and effectively operationalise the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Liliendaal, East Bank Demerara. The APNU+AFC Administration had transformed the Ocean View Hotel into the Infectious Diseases Hospital at a cost of $1.6B to aid in its response to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. With the additional finances, the health facility will be able to accommodate some 200 patients.
Government, he posited, is also working to increase the health authorities’ capacity for surveillance. “Effective and sufficiently expansive surveillance, including contact tracing, is the absolutely required foundation on which pandemic control can be achieved. Without this, we would be testing ‘in the dark’. Strong surveillance, coupled with efficient testing and subsequent coordinated and effective response, must be the pillars upon which we will control the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
In order to protect the public service and ensure that public services are able to continue uninterrupted, Government has also budgeted $1.8B for the procurement of PPE for central government workers.