Unhealthy sector – Hospitals and Health Centres in Guyana

Unhealthy sector – Hospitalsand Health Centres in Guyana

Dr. George Norton

Dr. George Norton

Stabroek News – 18 June 2015 – Editorial

While the discoveries at each site visited so far have been appalling, perhaps the most inhuman was at the National Psychiatric Hospital in Berbice, where the Minister found that mental patients were forced to bathe with and drink trench water and the ward was also being cleaned with the same water since there has been no water supply for two months. The conditions under which the patients dwell was also described as “pitiful.” 

Water seemed to be what was lacking at many of the facilities visited − Kabakaburi, Karawab, Abram’s Creek, Siriki and St Monica in the Essequibo region. At Siriki, there is also a huge bat infestation problem. And at Suddie, the operation theatre was described as “scandalous,” so much so that Minister Norton advocated breaking it down and rebuilding it as the only option.

None of these problems would have arisen overnight, so the question that must be asked is what the administrators of these hospitals and clinics were doing about these issues.

A hospital that does not have potable water for any period of time is in crisis. Hand-washing is critical to maintaining not just the health of those who visit with various illnesses, but also of the hospital staff – at all levels. When a hospital does not have running water for two months, it can be deemed critical and should be shut down. But not in Guyana apparently, and certainly not at the Canje, Berbice psychiatric facility. Instead, from all appearances, the staff calmly turned to utilizing water from the drain outside. Does this hospital not have maintenance staff? Or if not at least skilled persons on call who could address such a situation?

One has to wonder whether this problem was really just two months old or if it had occurred before and had been addressed. Why was no one pushing the panic button? Medical personnel must be aware that psychiatric patients’ issues are not confined to their mental state. Many of them contract other diseases, some of which are contagious. And with their mental faculties not intact, who’s to say that they would be observing the necessary public health practices as regards itching, coughing, sneezing and general sanitary methods.

Similarly at the Pomeroon River health centres, as was reported, there were “sturdy structures outside and sometimes six or even more black tanks of water,” yet no water flowed through the taps and the toilets were not functioning. It stands to reason therefore that the staff at these facilities would have been constantly putting their health and the health of their families at risk.

Then there are the twin issues of non-functional electricity and equipment, compounded by wastage. In the case of the Suddie Hospital it was a case of a portable x-ray machine that was taken there and found to be unsuitable but was just left there when the next obvious move would have been to remove it to a suitable location and procure another one.

At the Canje hospital, it was the newly constructed ‘Acute Care Centre’ that was found to be unusable as it was dark and devoid of electricity. There were also several storerooms with items that were improperly stored and therefore being made useless.

What these situations all point to is a lack of proper health management systems, including monitoring and evaluation. While the hospital and regional authorities directly responsible for the day-to-day management of these facilities must be held accountable for their current state, overarching responsibility lies with the government through the health ministry; that’s where the buck ultimately stops. The unhealthy state of affairs in the sector must be laid squarely at the feet of the last administration.

Between 2007 and 2013, close to $100 billion was budgeted for the health sector. This would not include the billions more that would have been received in gifts, donations, grants and voluntary service to the sector. It is despicable therefore that there should still be hospitals and health posts that lack running water and with theatres that do not function.

Dr Norton’s familiarization tour is heartening. Note has been taken of the deficiencies and accordingly plans are in train to address same. Careful monitoring must be put in place as well to ensure that these problems never occur again.


Dr. George Norton

Dr. George Norton

PROFILE – Dr. George Norton

Dr. George Norton is the Tosshau (Village Leader) for the village of Riversview, Essequibo River, Region 10. He was educated in the Republic of Cuba where he graduated with a Degree in Medicine from the Superior Institute of Medical Science in 1984 and specialized in Ophthalmology in 1988. Dr. Norton is a Consulting Ophthalmologist and Head the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Guyana.

Dr. Norton is the Party’s Director of Hinterland Affairs and is a Member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC). He takes a special interest in sports, youth and culture and the Indigenous Rights of the Amerindian people. He is the newly appointed  Minister of Public Health in the APNU+AFC Government.

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  • Deen  On 06/19/2015 at 7:37 am

    The reported conditions of these institutions are obnoxiously unhealthy and inhumane. It’s very sad to learn of the neglect and poor administrations that took place. This is a scandalous and criminal. A detail investigation should be made and those responsible for the health and welfare of these poor people should be severely punished for their callous inhumanity. SAD! SAD!! SAD!!!

  • Thinker  On 06/19/2015 at 7:46 am

    The Minister is another Christopher Columbus. The conditions in public hospitals were known to all Guyanese. The upper middle class knows that they MUST go into private hospitals if they hope to prolong their lives.

  • detow  On 06/19/2015 at 3:31 pm

    Thinker you sometimes leave me wondering what you are thinking about. Knowing about a wrong does not equate to being in a position to correct it. Dr. Norton now has first hand information and is in a position to put in place corrective actions. Give them a chance to discover and correct before throwing stones at them.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/19/2015 at 6:45 pm

    I live in British Columbia, Canada. Christy Clark is the Premier of B.C. – Check out this promo ad in preparation for the next elections – Just in case you people on this blog think that some of the reporting is unique and exclusively a Guyana thing. This is from the Opposition campaign and solicitation for support:

    Christy Clark has admitted to misleading the public for two and a half years. An innocent person is dead and seven others had their lives thrown into turmoil after this government falsely announced they were under an RCMP investigation.

    I ask that you join me in calling for a public inquiry into the wrongful health researcher firings.

    I have challenged the premier many times to tell the truth about these events. She has said “sorry”, but she has not shown any willingness to hold her ministers, senior administrators and government accountable for their actions.
    The solution is a simple one. We must have a full public inquiry.

    If Clark’s government can ruin careers and crush lives and walk away without a single person ever being held responsible, it can happen again. It can happen to anyone. Sign here to demand a full and independent public inquiry. -Just saying.

  • kiskadee70  On 06/21/2015 at 11:51 am

    Hmmmm! $12 Billion to build a white elephant surrounded by shit and our health care institutions are in such a deplorable state !!!! If this is not an insult to our people, then what is?

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