Distressing state of affairs Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 29, 2001

THE news that the administration at the New Amsterdam Hospital is under review, so much so that disciplinary action may become necessary, has been greeted with shock and dismay by many.

This move, announced Tuesday by Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, followed an investigation he launched after a young Berbice businessman who was shot by bandits, died at the hospital Saturday night.

While Dr. Ramsammy noted that timely medical intervention may not have saved the wounded man, medical personnel should not be found wanting or appear to be found wanting in times of emergencies.

Relatives and friends of the late businessman have openly expressed their dissatisfaction at the delay and lack of proper response to his condition.

And the public statement by the Health Minister has clearly given cause for much concern.

Concern has also been raised in Linden where it was reported that no doctor was at the Mackenzie Hospital Tuesday afternoon when an electrician who was apparently electrocuted while working on a utility pole, was taken there.

The young man was reportedly dead by the time he was removed from the pole but reports said a doctor did not get to the hospital to see him until more than an hour after.

Much emphasis and funds have been spent in upgrading health institutions and providing medical personnel in recent years, and while there are still shortcomings in the system, the institutions and health workers are expected to dispense adequate and proper health care to the people.

It is unacceptable that a health institution as big as the New Amsterdam Hospital, which is the main hospital in a heavily populated region, does not have a fully qualified medical practitioner on duty at all times - as indicated in the damning statement Dr. Ramsammy issued Tuesday.

The minister found it "unacceptable that it took more than two hours for a surgeon to respond to an emergency."

This would be unacceptable in any modern society and should be a matter of the gravest concern.

Those who live in Berbice and depend on the New Amsterdam Hospital for medical treatment could hardly be comforted by these revelations and it is time for a close hard look at this and other health institutions in the country.

Horror at the "non-responsiveness of doctors" is not the usual sentiment reserved for staff at hospitals where the emphasis and overriding responsibility the world over is to save lives, mend injuries and cure people.

And it should be cause for shame for a health institution to be described as "the worst administrated regional hospital in the country."

The Health Minister, who has demonstrated an admirable high level of energy, enthusiasm and much initiative since assuming the portfolio earlier this year, must have been greatly pained to have issued such a searing indictment on an institution that falls under his direct responsibility. He would have thought long and hard before going public on the state of affairs at the New Amsterdam Hospital.

This was the same minister who last week found cause to praise staff at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

"All Guyanese need to be proud of the Georgetown Hospital where our staff work under lots of constraints, but still perform with considerable efficiency."

He acknowledged the hard work of the hospital staff, particularly doctors, nurses and other technical personnel, adding, "They deserve our commendation, not criticism."

Let's hope it would not be too long before such praise is also poured on the New Amsterdam Hospital and other institutions where service to people has been found lacking.