Commission to review patient death at New Amsterdam Hospital
State medical institutions to be audited
Stabroek News
December 9, 2001

The Ministry of Health will establish a commission to review the recent death of a patient at the New Amsterdam Hospital and launch an audit of the institution to pinpoint specific areas for improvement.

Briefing reporters yesterday at the ministry, Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, stated that audits would also be done at the other state-run hospitals, beginning with those in Region Six.

Dr Ramsammy said he had been trying to address the concerns of Berbicians over the state of the health services in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), particularly those at the New Amsterdam Hospital.

He disclosed that he also discussed the state of the health services in the region at Cabinet level.

"I believe that it would serve everyone's interest if a general audit of the New Amsterdam Hospital and health services in Region Six could be done and a specific investigation of the death of Mr Kassim be conducted," Dr Ramsammy said.

Shahabodeen Kassim, 25, was shot by bandits on November 25 and was taken to the New Amsterdam Hospital for treatment. Delays were allegedly encountered and he succumbed the same day.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rudolph Cummings, who shared the press briefing with the minister, has made arrangements to establish the three-person commission.

Two physicians have already been identified and a third is to respond as to whether the appointment would be taken up.

Ramsammy revealed that Dr Dennison Davis, director of Standards and Technical Services, will serve as the secretary of the commission. The CMO said he was in the process of drafting the terms of reference. The investigation is to begin by this coming weekend.

Dr Ramsammy said the audits, beginning with the larger institutions, would ascertain their true potential and serve as a basis for steps to be taken to optimise their functions.

The audit of the New Amsterdam Hospital will examine the present staffing and services and make recommendations for the strengthening of the institution.

The minister said the ministry was open to suggestions from the wider community on ways the services could be improved.

"It is my view that a really effective way of improving relations between communities and institutions is to form joint community/hospital management units to improve community participation," he declared.

Ramsammy said in the meantime he has begun to put other arrangements in place to improve the situation at the hospital.

He asserted there was an obvious communication problem and said his Permanent Secretary, Doerga Persaud, has been instructed to ensure either beepers or cellular phones were provided to the doctors to resolve the situation.

He said instructions were also passed to let work begin to improve the accommodation for doctors on call at the hospital.

The minister said he had been in discussion with the contractor up to Friday evening and the work was due to begin this week.

Ramsammy acknowledged the constraints of resources at the institution and stated that the ministry intended to utilise the auspices of the Guyana-Cuba Joint Commission to acquire additional physician staff for the New Amsterdam Hospital and other such institutions where staff shortages existed.

"In addition, short-term arrangements will be made with the GPHC to have some junior staff transferred to the facility," he said. "I am open to other suggestions such as having interested physicians in the private sector do emergency duty at the hospital on a sessional basis."

Ramsammy said he met the Berbice Medical Association on Friday evening and was encouraged by the response. It was agreed that members of the association would provide their services on a sessional basis.

This could start as early as this week, Ramsammy said, and Regional Health Officer Dr Joseph Khalikaprashad has begun to compile a list of the doctors in private practice who would make their services available.

The minister told reporters that Dr Clement McEwan has been working with the New Amsterdam Hospital over the last several weeks to improve its blood bank service.

He said a new x-ray unit would be commissioned there shortly to support diagnostic services.

A training programme in emergency medicine for clinical staff of the hospital and other hospitals in Berbice is being organised by Dr Madan Rambarran, director of Medical and Professional services at GPHC.

Meanwhile, Ramsammy declared there was no "war" going on within the ministry as might have been the perception in the public.

"There isn't a war going at the ministry. There were probably some errors in our approach but we're all committed to the same goal of continuing to improve the health services in Guyana," he stated.

He pointed out that he was a different minister with a different style, which could sometimes lead to misunderstandings but this did not mean that the objective was different.

"I will continue to want things to happen faster. I am not satisfied at the moment that our capacity to respond [to emergency situations] is adequate," he said.

Dr Cummings said he was committed to every minister he worked with but noted that ministers were politicians and their imperatives might be different.

He dismissed any claim that there was a problem between himself and the minister, stating that they were both committed to the task of improving the health sector.