Regional Chairman admits staff shortage at NA hospital By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
December 9, 2001

Regional Chairman Rohit Persaud, while informing reporters at a media briefing last Wednesday that his administration has been spending approximately $20 million annually on infrastructure works at the New Amsterdam Hospital, acknowledged that there was a shortage of medical personnel at the regional institution.

The hospital came under intense criticism following the death of 25-year-old Shahabodeen Kassim on the evening of November 24 after being shot by an armed bandit at his parents' business premises at Vryheid Village, West Canje, Berbice.

Speaking at the briefing in the Boardroom of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), Vryman's Erven, Persaud said there had been improvements in the supply of drugs and infrastructure at the Region Six hospitals. X-Ray equipment, he noted, had been installed at Skeldon Hospital, while similar equipment was being installed at the Port Mourant Hospital. "However, there is need for specialists at all the hospitals," he emphasized.

Giving an overview of the regional administration's work programme and achievements over the past 11 months, the chairman said "despite the fact that we have been forced to work with a shortage of support staff, sometimes as high as 50 per cent, I am satisfied with what is happening in the region."

He was high in praise of the staff, particularly those in the technical field who had worked extremely hard over the years. He was also critical of "some sections of the media" which he said were not "balanced" in their reporting on the activities of the administration over the years.

Come December 31, the administration expects to complete some 99 per cent of its work programme for the year with just a few projects running over into 2002. Since 1993 the administration has been recording a completion rate of approximately 95 per cent of its work programmes, and achieved 96 per cent last year.

The administration continued to spend the biggest chunk of its budget on drainage and irrigation this year in a region heavily dependent on agriculture with the major beneficiary being Black Bush Polder.

According to the chairman, his administration has been spending approximately $48 million annually on rehabilitation of roads with reef sand, bauxite overburden and chip seal. The rehabilitated roads he said have a "life span" of three to four years. However, there have been complaints in some areas by residents that the rehabilitated roads have already begun to deteriorate.

Touching on schools, Persaud disclosed that approximately 50 per cent of the region's 152 schools have been partially or completely rehabilitated over the past eight years. More than 50 bridges on the East Bank, East and West Canje, Crabwood Creek, Black Bush Polder and in the Number 52 to 74 area were rehabilitated over the past year.

Some ten villages, he said, were expected to benefit from electricity supply in the near future. He referred to the "perception" that the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) were not doing anything in their areas and said he did not agree. "All the NDC's have performed creditably ... a lot of roads have been built and a lot of development works are continuing in these areas." Pipelines had been laid in the Black Bush area, he said, but could not say whether water was running through the lines.

Persaud expressed concern over the wastage of water by consumers in some areas and called on the delinquent ones to desist from such practices since they affected the pressure in other areas.

Persaud denied allegations that his administration was guilty of discriminating against certain areas for political reasons, saying he represents all the people in the region as chairman.

He also disclosed that 15 applications have been received from business entities for plots at the New Amsterdam Industrial Site. And Persaud reported too that the administration has been given $2 million to upgrade the access road to the Number 63 Village beach on the Corentyne.

Asked about the long-awaited bridge across the Berbice River, the chairman said he was not au fait with the details of the negotiations, but opined that the bridge will be a boost for the region, creating jobs and facilitating the opening-up of new business. "We will all be happy when the bridge is finally completed."

He also referred to the age-old problem of NDC's only collecting approximately 50 percent of their collectable rates and taxes, which inhibits their developmental efforts.