HIV, malaria infection levels high - US airforce medical team

Stabroek News
August 27, 1999

A United States Airforce medical team which is in Guyana on a two-week voluntary attachment to the Georgetown Hospital has identified HIV and malaria as significant health crises facing the nation.

This was revealed by Head of the team, Dr Peter Ender, following a formal handing-over ceremony on Wednesday of some 500 medical books to the hospital for use by personnel at the facility and medical students. The books which cover a range of topics like histology, physiology, neurology, gastro-intestinal diseases and diabetes were donated due to the efforts of Dr Michael Heffernan, a skin specialist, and a member of the team. The books will be housed in the hospital's library.

Hospital Administrator, George Monroe, said that the book donation was just another gesture of support for the institution, which is also expected to benefit from specialist equipment and stocks of medical supplies which the visiting team brought and is expected to leave with the facility.

Dr Madan Rambarran, Director of Medical Services at the hospital, who received the books on behalf of the institution, stated: "They want to leave a legacy of knowledge... which would ensure a continuation of their work here." He also thanked the doctors for their support which aimed to strengthen the capabilities of the personnel at the institution.

Dr Ender, who also spoke at the function, stated that the team which was primarily stationed within the confines of the Georgetown Hospital, treated persons for a range of illnesses including skin defects, paediatric care and heart disorders. The team also gave lectures on a variety of topics to members of the medical profession which included 56 midwives who were trained in a special procedure to facilitate resuscitation of infants. He thanked the staff at the hospital particularly Dr Leslie Ramsammy, chairman of the hospital's Interim Management Committee and Dr Rambarran for their assistance in ensuring that their stay was comfortable.

Following the ceremony, Stabroek News spoke to Dr Heffernan, who was credited with effecting the restart of the skin clinic at the hospital. According to him it had been non functional for approximately three years. He said that the most common ailment that he encountered was yeast infection or 'latta' which develops as a consequence of the heat and humidity of the country. This he noted could be treated with medicated Selsun Blue, an over-the-counter drug. Leprosy, he said, was a cause for concern as some persons had shown signs of the disease. Leprosy could cause permanent disfiguration to affected persons and Dr Heffernan advised early detection and treatment.

Dr Ender also spoke about the rising level of HIV cases which he said could eventually devastate the country if not taken seriously. He was particularly astonished by the significant increase in cases of the virus since his last visit a year ago.

Malaria was another affliction which he said needed urgent attention since there was a notable increase of the disease in the urban areas. These two areas, he said, needed particular attention in the short term. Dr Ender further stressed the need for an urgent approach to the development of a capable public health sector, including better vector control. He also stressed the need for better infection controls at the hospital and stated that his team had given an educational session to nurses at the facility on ways to reduce risks of patients infecting others.

The 11-member team, comprising specialists in various fields, technicians and other support staff is concluding its annual stint at the local institution. The team is scheduled to depart tomorrow.

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