Multi-million dollar repair works unveiled at psychiatric hospital
-Ramsammy says suicide is major national issue

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
December 29, 1999

Several rehabilitation projects and improvement works undertaken and completed by the management committee of the national psychiatric hospital, Fort Canje, New Amsterdam were commissioned last week at a simple ceremony.

Reporting on the activities of the committee over the past five years, chairman Reverend Wilfred Ledra disclosed that the committee which was established in September 1994 benefited from a G$30M allocation from then Minister of Health Gail Teixeira.

Among the projects commissioned were the installation of a 85 HP, 65 KWH standby generator which together with power from the national grid ensures that the compound is supplied with electricity on a 24-hour basis. The single pavilion which for decades provided accommodation for thousands of sports fans and which over recent times fell into disrepair has been rebuilt. According to Ledra a new 20,000-gallon reservoir was constructed, overhead tanks installed and an electrical pump acquired while new pipelines were laid throughout the compound.

The compound has also been cleared of shrubs and graded, a new security hut constructed, new telephones installed and the doctor's quarters and chalets two, four, five (a) and five (b) for males rehabilitated. However, the chairman noted that "a lot still remains to be done. The administrative department, the doctor's office, the occupational therapy department, the clinic and the store are in need of urgent repairs. The committee, he said, "is contemplating converting the old Victoria block into an administrative block to house an office for the assistant hospital administrator, the matron, the nursing supervisor and the pharmacy. This, he noted, "will however call for massive expenditure".

Chairman of the Board of the Georgetown Hospital and head of the health sector reform programme, Dr Leslie Ramsammy MP in delivering the feature address recalled that "the national psychiatric hospital was once a national disgrace and a tragedy. However, it is now on a new journey with these major rehabilitation works." Describing the rehabilitation projects as "a great accomplishment" Dr Ramsammy expressed the hope that they will serve as a catalyst for further development of the institution.

Mental health co-ordinator He remarked that "mental health has always received low priority. Therefore we must recognise and place mental health on the forefront and not treat the issue as an orphaned subject which we now and then spare some time for. The social and economic consequences", according to the doctor "of mental health illness is enormous". He disclosed that a national mental health co-ordinator (designate) has been identified and a national programme is to get underway soon.

"Guyana must give mental health national prominence" he asserted. He added that in the national health sector reform programme, mental health "is a separate item, a separate chapter and an integral part".

Suicide Touching on acts of suicide which have become prevalent in Berbice, Dr Ramsammy pointed out that over one million people committed suicide this year worldwide which translates into one person every forty seconds. "Suicide is one of the three leading causes of death among persons between the ages of 15-44 years. In Guyana the suicide rate is 10.5 per cent per 100,000 of the population", he disclosed and referred to the planned establishment of a counselling centre on the Corentyne towards which some $10M has already been allocated.

According to the member of parliament, out of 950 autopsies performed at the Georgetown hospital between January and November it was found that 95 of those deaths were due to suicide. "Seventy-five per cent of the cases were between the productive ages of 20-49 years with sixty-eight per cent being Indo Guyanese. Suicide has been the leading cause of deaths in the 30-40 years age group contributing more deaths than AIDS did", he declared. Suicide, he said, is a major national issue.

Among those attending the ceremony were IDB hospital administrative consultant Chetram Singh and Regional Chairman Rohit Persaud.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples