'Vision 2005' launched
Public hospital to extend reach via four polyclinics
Accountability of hospital staff to be given priority

Stabroek News
April 19, 2000

The Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) has developed a strategy to bring the institution up to standard and it includes extending its service via four polyclinics.

The stated goal of `Vision 2005' is for an efficient and compassionate hospital comparable to the very best in the Caribbean in patient care education and research.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy, chairman of the recently corporatised hospital, speaking to reporters yesterday described the goal and the strategies to reach it as ambitious but attainable. Under the project there are ten main areas to be addressed.

The administration plans to reduce the number of patients visiting the GPH and Ramsammy revealed that by the first quarter of next year, four polyclinics on the East Coast, in Kitty/Campbellville, La Penitence and on the East Bank will be opened. These clinics, extensions of GPH service will be visited by doctors and specialists from the hospital who will deal with less serious cases. There will be some equipment such as X-ray machines at the new clinics. This move should have the effect of reducing waiting times at GPH and travel costs to patients.

The hospital will also take steps to ensure there are adequate numbers of properly trained and qualified staff. Ramsammy conceded that the hospital has had trouble in retaining personnel but "the administration would like to make remuneration more attractive for staff." Steps will also be taken to remove the employees from the ambit of the Public Service Commission. But Ramsammy said staff would still be represented by their union.

He said the hospital would start work on the new Cancer Centre at Lamaha and East streets by December 2000, a new store for supplies and an $18 million elevator for the maternity ward. A new inpatient building is also slated for where the Accident and Emergency unit now stands. Additionally GPH will start dismantling old structures in the compound.

Service contracts are now being signed for hospital equipment as part of the goal to maintain existing machinery. Sixty million dollars have been allocated within the budget for maintenance and hospitals in Suriname and Trinidad will be assisting in the training of bio-medical engineers.

Ramsammy said GPH will soon have a part-time public relations adviser, who will attempt to improve the public image of the institution. He said contacts between patients and medical personnel average 500,000 per year and this should be compared to the number of disasters that occur. GPH did do a lot of good work, he said, but this was not always reflected in the media. However, he said, the administration was not upset at negative stories coming out of GPH, if they were accurately reported. He also added that the new corporate name was the Georgetown Public Hospital instead of the Public Hospital Georgetown which he had always thought rather clumsy.

Accountability of hospital personnel will be prioritised with clinical audits set up to investigate cases of negligence and the deaths of patients. The hospital will also be looking at using patient information to stretch its budget further. "Even with what we have we can give a better service," Ramsammy said. Other initiatives include the expansion and education of training programmes and the promotion of clinical research. (William Walker)

Despite these fissiparous tendencies, the report suggests, and the presence of alternatives "the Commonwealth validates itself in its stubborn ability to remain a live association". Asking what would be the nature of the Commonwealth "in a globalising world where the dominant motivations are to subordinate all things to the market" it suggests that the Commonwealth's unity of purpose must be articulated and demonstrated in terms of what the Commonwealth has in common, shared values. "Human rights must be the common coinage that is used in all dealings between member States; the State and the citizen; and between the people of the Commonwealth".

It is an inspiring concept. The Commonwealth re-affirmed its commitment to the protection of human rights in the Harare Declaration of l99l. Subsequently, the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme based on that declaration was adopted at the heads of government meeting in New Zealand in l995. Among other things it urged the strengthening of the Commonwealth Secretariat to enhance its capacity to observe elections, strengthen the rule of law and promote the independence of the judiciary. A Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group was set up to assess clear infringements by governments of the Harare Declaration and to recommend collective action.

The idea of energising the Commonwealth around the ideals of good and open government should be strongly pursued by Commonwealth Caribbean governments. To quote from the report's conclusion:

"The Commonwealth Secretariat must utilise human rights as a common dialogue when dealing with states. Only when human rights is perceived to be a non-conflict based tool for developing international relationships will member States themselves imbue their governance with human rights values. The Commonwealth Secretariat can achieve this by setting the precedent and setting human rights values as the basis on which they make their decisions and determine their policies. As part of prioritising human rights the Commonwealth Secretariat should enhance the role of (its Human Rights Unit) so that it takes pride of place and does not operate in isolation. Further, the Commonwealth Secretariat should encourage input and participation from NGOs and the average citizen of the Commonwealth".