Malaria remains major problem in interior
- Health Ministry
Berbice staff reluctant to redeploy

By William Walker
Stabroek News
August 18, 2000

While the malaria situation in Guyana continues to be a major public health problem, the Ministry of Health has encountered difficulty getting the cooperation of staff to be reassigned to affected areas in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine.

A release from the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Labour indicated that the ministry has found resource wastage at least in one particular region.

Permanent Secretary Doorga Persaud said the Vector Control Services (VCS) in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) was identified as one of the areas where demands for the services have significantly declined within the recent year.

According to data in 1999 and up to June 2000, the total number of smears undertaken by the staff at the New Amsterdam location revealed an average of one smear per employee every four days or about 1/4 smear per employee per day.

The permanent secretary pointed out that an employee could take 150 smears per day and similarly examine 75 smears per day respectively.

"The situation at New Amsterdam is obviously a gross waste of national resources, which should not be allowed to continue," Persaud stated.

The Ministry's efforts in 1999 and 2000 were directed to reduce the exceptionally high endemicity prior to a stable level and in 2001 to attempt to significantly reduce the prevalence/incidence of malaria in the said Regions, the release stated.

Simultaneously efforts are being directed at preventing the reintroduction of malaria to previously affected areas. The VCS has embarked on a programme to improve the services provided in areas where there is relatively high endemicity and to reassign staff from areas where the workload is less to those areas of higher endemicity.

In addition, Persaud noted, simultaneous training of laboratory staff in the diagnosis of malaria at regional institutions was undertaken, thereby further reducing the need for the VCS staff at these facilities, while some have remained to monitor and evaluate the situation.

Persaud said the Ministry in January last made the first effort to reassign staff from New Amsterdam to assist in malaria control efforts in various locales with high endemicity. According to him, the staff rejected the reassignment proposal and chose to remain at New Amsterdam.

After a preliminary review of the activities of the malaria status for the first half of this year and observing a similar trend in July, he said efforts were renewed to reassign the staff to various localities where there are "urgent needs" and the staff again rejected.

In an effort to seek compliance the ministry held discussions with the workers and their representatives where it was agreed that they would have taken up their positions from Tuesday this week, but according to the permanent secretary, they still have not complied with the written directives.

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