Health Ministry's 2002 budget projected at $6.5B
Staff absenteeism, attitude top priorities
Stabroek News
January 21, 2002

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy has a projected budget of $6.5 billion for this year, which he said would assist his ministry in focusing on its ambitious programme to make the sector more responsive to the health needs of the Guyanese people.

It is expected that the New Amsterdam hospital will be constructed and the other public hospitals rehabilitated. Also slated for this year is the development of a biomedical department at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to train biomedical technicians for all hospitals. Another important item on the programme is the installation of x-ray machines and laboratories at all regional and some community hospitals. All of these plans are listed under 'hospital physical and technological capacity' which is one of the 11 major priorities for this year. The programme also has 13 strategic goals.

In coming up with the programme, Ramsammy said, the ministry was guided by the concerns most frequently expressed by people during the national dialogue on poverty reduction and to government ministers and in the press on a daily basis.

Speaking at a press conference in his ministry's boardroom last week, Ramsammy pointed out that three of the most frequent concerns were: doctors and other caregivers were often not at the hospital/centres; drugs were not available; staff at public health institutions behaved insensitively and unmannerly. The minister said his ministry took such concerns seriously and would be addressing them.

A health plan for the years 2002-2006, is being developed around the same 13 strategic goals:

* health promotion;
* strong public health programmes;
* strong delivery system;
* environmental health;
* planning, monitoring, research and evaluation;
* human resources management;
* financial management system;
* health information system for evidence based decision
* making; health technology management/bioengineering;
* management accountability;
* health policies regulations and legislation;
* continuous quality control;
* sustainable financing.

It is expected that the draft health plan will be completed by February 15, reviewed in-house by March 1, reviewed regionally by May 1, presented to the cabinet sub-committee by May 15 and adopted by cabinet by June 15.

The major priorities have a number of tasks and activities at the top of which is human resources management. Two specific objectives to be addressed urgently are the absenteeism and the attitude of health care workers and procurement and distribution of drugs to address unavailability.

Under the first priority, one of the tasks to be undertaken would be to develop protocols for greater management and supervision of staff, which would include rules for private practice by public health personnel. The minister stressed that doctors in the public sector should not work privately during public service hours. Under the second priority the ministry will attempt to ensure timely orders and regular audits so that drugs are accounted for and utilized on a timely basis, thus reducing the incidence of expiration.

Ramsammy said that his ministry would introduce a Regional Health Management Committee in Region Six, which he said was the pilot programme for the Regional Health Authority.

Questioned on the status of the bunker for cancer fighting equipment in the GPHC compound, Ramsammy said that one part of the building was completed and was now waiting for a Cuban team to come in. He said when the team arrived it would be able to get the caesium unit going. Ramsammy said that the second part of the building, to house the cobalt machine - which is an extension of the radiotherapy treatment - should be completed this month. The minister said that within the next few weeks the first section of the building will begin functioning, but the cobalt machine would not be installed until the last quarter of the year.

Looking back at the year 2001 Ramsammy said that despite several constraints, including the late presentation of the budget, elections and the ensuing protests, his ministry was able to complete most of its work programme.