This young man might have survived with proper medical care
Stabroek News
December 1, 2001

Dear Editor,

Health Minister Dr.Leslie Ramsammy has his hands full, I am sure, as he tries to come to grips with the mediaeval system that is Guyana's health care. As a medical doctor, the situation is probably more frustrating for him. I applaud his calling a spade a spade, speaking out as he sees fit, and hopefully getting something done about this farce.

He recently went to Berbice and was shocked at the lackadaisical attitude he noticed in the doctors and medical staff at the public hospital there.

Then last Saturday night, a Vryheid Village (Berbice) businessman 25-year-old Shabudeen Kassim was shot in the groin (or lower back, depending on the news source you read) and left to basically bleed to death in the hospital before he could receive proper triage.

This delay was so long that the GDF helicopter dispatched from Georgetown managed to get to Berbice before a surgeon could be located to attend to the victim. He was admitted to the hospital at around 6:30 p.m. but did not get into the Operating Room until about 2 1/2 hours later. He died shortly after the start of the operation.

During the delay, the Regional Health Officer was located but was reportedly on his way out of the country. A "junior doctor" was located but he was only apparently competent to dispense aspirin, another surgeon was located but he was apparently an orthopaedic specialist. The hospital claimed that Kassim was "seen" by 2 doctors prior to being taken to the Operating Room.

My point is this -- given that Guyana is such a violent place in which to live, what with the crime, the shootings, the stabbings, the car accidents, and so forth -- how come there is not at least one competent surgeon on call for the Emergency Room of this hospital in Berbice? In the absence of such a competent surgeon, how is it that no doctor was willing and/or able to offer some tangible help?

If Guyana can't reduce the crime and violent motor accident levels, at least people being taken to the hospital busted up and bleeding to death should be patched up with some degree of efficiency and competence. In other words, the solution should at least be at either the front end or the back end of the problem -- if not at both.

If the so-called hospital is really a clinic, then the patient should have been airlifted to Georgetown immediately. What seems clear is that there was no one on site willing and able to make a proper decision. Meanwhile this citizen just bled to death, while it was possible that, given proper and immediate care he might have survived.

In 1976, I got into an accident with a dog while riding my bike home about 9:00 pm one weeknight. My right elbow was completely dislocated, but the dog was uninjured. Luckily it happened not far from home and another cyclist involved in the accident helped me home. My father took me to the PHG where I was admitted around 10:00 pm. I was told that there was no one on hand who could attend to my injury which had started to become unbearable. I was placed in an open ward to share a single bed with another male who had a wrist injury. I could not move my arm any way and had to sit at one edge of the bed until the doctor came. A Cuban doctor (I believe) made his rounds the following morning at 6:00 am and he sedated me and re-set my forearm. The procedure took about 5 minutes. I passed out until the afternoon. I suppose if one could have died from a dislocated elbow I might not be here writing this.

The young Berbice businessman was not so lucky. He bled to death while the system fiddled with what to do. Shame.

I guess in some ways it is better to be a dog in Guyana than a victim needing public medical assistance. The value of the lives of the two are apparently on par.

Yours faithfully,

Wayne Moses