Ramsammy urges harmonisation of HIV/AIDS, other health policies
Guyana Chronicle
April 29, 2002

Related Links: Articles on AIDS
Letters Menu Archival Menu

GUYANA’S Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, has tasked Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) in the Caribbean to harmonise policies in the sector.

While the current focus should be on HIV/AIDS, they should ensure their response is not singular but maintains and sustains a balanced approach to the health of people in the Region.

“…we must not be tempted into neglecting other significant public health problems, such as mental health, diabetes, hypertension, malaria for some countries, dengue, environmental health and so on,” he told them at their annual meeting which ended Tuesday at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown.

Ramsammy, who addressed the gathering at the opening Monday, said the Caribbean as a region now serves as a model for political commitment, with Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo leading the advocacy role and Prime Ministers taking active leadership parts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“Concrete programmes, funded through grants, loans and directly from the Treasury are being implemented. Bold steps in support, care and treatment are being pursued, “the Minister said, noting that Barbados and Jamaica have taken large loans for the purpose.

Guyana has embarked on manufacturing anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and the attention being paid to the pandemic is entirely justified because HIV/AIDS may represent one of the most significant threats to public health, Ramsammy argued.

“… it is a threat to development. It is certainly a security issue and an issue of political stability,” he posited.

The CMOs were expected to review progress on developing regional strategies related to HIV/AIDS.

“The Caribbean can be proud of the progress we have made on regional issues as they pertain to the HIV/AIDS response. There remains a lot to be done on the issue of accessing global funds and the need to increase access to ARVs.” Ramsammy said, pointing out that CMOs need to remain advocates for strengthening the approaches to dealing with the epidemic.

The Minister said the forum was an opportunity for the CMOs to join the debate on the issue of migration and share ideas on how to deal with it.

It would also be quite in order for the group to study and make comments on current attempts to streamline and upgrade public health training.

“We need to expand and enhance our training programmes but we must also find ways to retain those we train. The idea of a managed migration policy is gaining momentum and, as CMOs, we ought to join in the debate,” Ramsammy stated.

He proposed that Guyana and other nations train more people, so their inevitable skills losses can be managed but admitted more training means additional investment by countries already strained in resource (financial) allocation.

Ramsammy said it is important that Caribbean Association of Medical Councils (CAMC) be seen as assisting regional governments to address manpower needs where they exist.

“Further development of CAMC efforts at harmonising registration and establishment of uniform standards of accreditation are urgently needed if the issue of inter-country cooperation is to be addressed,” he said, adding for their consideration Caribbean Cooperation in Health-11 (CCH-11), the framework that provides many opportunities for horizontal collaboration between countries and a road map of regional priorities.

“CCH-11 has, in the past, presented us with opportunities for donor coordination and galvanising donor support. It is also broad-based enough to allow countries to pursue their specific needs,” Ramsammy observed.

He, however, acknowledged that progress in the implementation of CCH-11 has been disappointingly slow and plans for mental health and non-communicable diseases are long overdue.

Ramsammy said the region has, for some time, been described as being in demographic and epidemiologic transition and, in Guyana, though the gravity of mental health problems may not be well known, it is significant by public perceptions, especially from the point of view of problems of suicide and substance abuse.

Chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, represent major causes of mortality and morbidity and endorsement of collaborative plans ought to achieve a similar regional road map for the development of programmes and policies, he remarked.

The CMOs should also take a position on the accreditation process as University of the West Indies (UWI) is an important regional institution, continuous strengthening of which must be ensured.

Nevertheless, Ramsammy said other institutions of higher learning, like the Medical School at University of Guyana, must also be recognised and tapped into like St George’s School of Medicine in Grenada and others in Suriname, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Ramsammy threw out a proposal for a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing to be the entry point for the profession throughout the region and said he is delighted UG would be starting such a course in September.

“I believe that such levels should be career path choices for individuals and maybe we could create a level of nursing that is open to those with degrees. But to establish B.Sc (Nursing) as entry level for nursing is not practical for Guyana and I suspect for all of our countries. This is an issue that you need to take a position on,” he told the doctors.

Ramsammy said he would be interested, as well, in their deliberations on the question of accreditation for private hospitals.

“We have started this process for laboratories and we must do the same for all hospitals,” he urged.