Guyana’s first polyclinic opened at Enmore By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
March 26, 2002

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THE Ministry of Health has moved a step further in taking health care to rural communities by opening Guyana’s first polyclinic at Enmore, East Coast Demerara.

And the institution has already begun to benefit from community support through the pledge of furniture and an ambulance, among other things.

The $28M centre, declared open on Friday last by President Bharrat Jagdeo, will provide equitable access to community-based health care delivery, officials said.

The project took less than a year to complete - its budgetary allocation was made in June last and work started in late December.

Director of Medical Services, Dr. Madan Rambarran, said the polyclinic would be an extension of the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) and would function as a primary health care facility for Enmore and designated geographical areas, and also provide specialist out-patient services for communities along the East Coast of Demerara.

There would be general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, internal medicine, gynaecology, mental health, emergency, radiology, pharmacy and laboratory services.

In addition, there is an area within the building where classes would be held to promote community health work. Seminars and workshops would address topics on health care for other communities as well, and clinics would be similar to those conducted at the GPH, Rambarran said.

The polyclinic would be staffed and operated by GPH staff and would treat patients referred by surrounding health centres to avoid a rush at the GPH.

The GPH, which functions as a tertiary hospital in Region Four, and a primary health centre for the district of greater Georgetown, during the year 2000 dealt with 220, 000 patients.

“This meant that approximately 1000 patients per day seek medical attention at the (GPH). That large number of patients could be effectively managed closer to their homes, Rambarran noted.

He said that at the turn of the last century, a Commission of Inquiry in the United States of America examined the way health care was being delivered and its recommendation became the model for health care delivery over the last century.

The model entailed taking patients into hospital, treating them and then sending them back into the community. Generally, that worked well and based on the state of medicine and health science at that time, it was the right approach.

However, since the 1950’s, with the rapidly increasing interest in health sciences, it has become increasingly possible to deliver health care within the community.

The new paradigm is for closer integration of teaching services and health care providers and communities working for the creation and maintenance of a healthier community.

This movement began here in the 1960’s and was initiated by former President, Mrs. Janet Jagan, who was then Health Minister and had started a programme to take health care to the community.

Mrs. Jagan, at the opening the Enmore polyclinic, said the People’s Progressive Party which governed from 1957 -1961, spent a lot of time in expanding health care beyond the limits of the urban areas. She noted that the polyclinic is a connection between a policy enunciated by the party since that time to take health care to all the people of Guyana.

Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, said the opening was a fitting response to a historical event because it was done on the 84th birth anniversary of former President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who began his political struggles at Enmore.

Dr. Jagan had also promised to set up such an institution at Enmore while he served as President, the Health Minister noted. He said it has now been realised through President Bharrat Jagdeo who had promised it during the last general elections campaign.

Ramsammy also said over the next few months, the Government will be opening a number of other health centres across the country to provide improved access to more than 60,000 people.

At the opening ceremony, a member of the Enmore community pledged an executive chair and desk for the polyclinic and Ramsammy, in lauding the gesture, said “it is that kind of spirit in support of the Government’s efforts that will make things work for the community”.

He said that recently an overseas-based Guyanese group called “Friends of Enmore” pledged a processor for the X-ray section and an ambulance, due to arrive here by August.

“This is a good way of illustrating the private/public mix, Government working with the people, and the people working with Government so that we can meet our needs”, he noted.

Ramsammy also said that in a few months the most modern ‘burn centre’ in the Caribbean would be opened at the Public Hospital Georgetown in collaboration with a group from Canada.

He said that the Ministry of Health also had recent discussions with a group from the U.S on the possibility of establishing a dialysis centre, and for a cardiac centre by another U.S-based group.

During last year, close to $100M was spent by the Ministry to send 191 persons for treatment abroad, Ramsammy said. “Our country cannot afford to sustain such a laudable effort. We have to find a way to cut down that cost and the work of the hospital, the Ministry and friends abroad will ensure that the monies spent by Government could be used in other areas where much help is needed,” he noted.

United States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Godard and Pan American Health Organisation representative, Mrs. Bernadette Theodore-Gandhi, were among officials who attended the opening ceremony.