The `red tape' can be cut Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
May 8, 2002

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THE public health care system in Guyana is providing a most essential service for the working class and poorer section of the population.

Because of the high costs at private medical institutions, it is virtually impossible for the poor sections of the population to be treated there and this makes the health care system all the more important.

The personnel in the public medical institutions are usually extremely hard working and in many instances function under tremendous adversities and stress. Because this is an essential service, medical personnel are at work during holidays and on weekends when just about everyone else is having a break.

The Government for its part, despite severe financial constraints, and shortage of personnel caused especially by migration, has been making tremendous efforts to improve health care throughout the country. Several riverain and hinterland communities now have access to primary health care, which was non-existent a decade ago.

Hospitals are now adequately stocked with medical drugs and are better equipped to deal with a greater variety of illnesses.

However, a major concern at public medical institutions is the time those seeking treatment have to spend, even for the simplest of ailments. And this problem does not have to do with financial or other resources - it is more related to proper management, common sense and concern and commitment by medical personnel.

Many people have to travel far from early in the morning to get to a public hospital or health centre and have to wait hours before receiving attention.

The system is fraught with too much `red tape' which delays the entire process. For example, if one has to get laboratory tests and it is lunch time, then sick as he/she might be, he/she has to endure the wait until the personnel return from lunch and many times the period far exceeds the prescribed period for lunch.

Similarly, sometimes a patient needs to uplift a few tablets, but is faced with the same situation. A probable solution to this problem is to stagger the lunch hours of the staff so that patients can at all times receive the required attention.

Another concern at these institutions is the late arrival of doctors, which further increases the managerial pressure because in the period of waiting more patients arrive creating greater congestion and potential for chaos.

Imagine the plight and discomfort of scores of elderly persons, pregnant women and mothers with young children arriving at a hospital at 06.30 hrs and leaving at 16:00 hrs!

The medical administrators should revisit this problem as a matter of national priority and come up with creative solutions to ease the plight of people who are in the most from the productive sectors of the economy.

The problem is systemic because it affects all public health institutions, hence like everything else it has to undergo changes to meet changing demands and challenges.

It must be recognised and appreciated that timely health care is directly related to production and productivity because many of the patients are workers and farmers who are essential to keep the wheels of production moving in the quest to improve the economic and social well being of society.