U.S. military doctors helping to treat hundreds of hinterland residents By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
August 6, 2002

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HEALTH Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and United States Ambassador Mr. Ronald Godard yesterday headed a delegation on a visit to the Bartica Regional Hospital, where they had a first-hand look at the work of U.S. medical personnel.

The team comprises doctors from the United States Military Tropical Medicine (MTM), and they are working alongside local doctors in treating, free of charge, hundreds of residents of the Guyana hinterland.

Other officials in the delegation included Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr. Mike Sarhan, U.S. Chief of Military Liaison, Major Tyler Fitzgerald and Major Granger-Ba of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

The 14-person team of American doctors from the MTM Course, Naval School of Health Sciences at Bethesda, Maryland, is in Guyana for a two-week stint undertaken at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and the Bartica Regional Hospital.

The United States Embassy in Georgetown said the group of 10 active-duty physicians and four staff doctors is being assisted by doctors from the Guyana Defence Force and the Bartica Regional Hospital.

"The team is looking forward to the opportunity of providing medical care in Bartica," a statement from the embassy said.

The military medical personnel arrived here on July 27 last, and are due to return to their homeland on Saturday on the completion of their assignment here.

Commenting on the presence of the American doctors in Guyana, Fitzgerald said the two weeks the doctors are spending in Guyana form part of a six-week course they are undergoing in Military Tropical Medicine.

The course is sponsored by the Naval School of Health Sciences for active-duty physicians of the United States Army, Navy and Air Force.

In the first four weeks of the course, the physicians attended lectures and participated in laboratory studies conducted at the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD. The final two weeks involve overseas rotations in one of four countries - Guyana, El Salvador, Bolivia, and Peru.

Fitzgerald explained that each overseas trip includes a week-long period during which the physicians are required to examine patients in various hospitals. This is to help them gain exposure to health care systems in developing countries.

This period is followed by a week of medicine during which, the team sets up a clinic in a remote, medically unserved region of the host country.

For this mission to Guyana, Fitzgerald said, the hospital orientation took place in the first week, July 29 to August 3, at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. The field medicine clinic began at Bartica yesterday and will continue until Thursday.

During their Georgetown Hospital stint, the U.S. doctors worked alongside Guyanese physicians accompanying them on their rounds at various clinics including paediatrics, surgery, dermatology, genito/urinary, vector-borne diseases, pathology, accident/trauma and medicine.

The visitors also shared professional medical expertise during a lecture night attended by the medical staff of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

They also visited the Pan-American Health Organisation, and the Hansen's Disease Clinic located in the Palms compound, Brickdam, Georgetown.

Fitzgerald said that the interaction provided opportunities for two-way learning.

"The Guyanese doctors were able to impart valuable information to the American doctors concerning common local illnesses and treatments, and the Americans were able to share methods of treatment and diagnosis from their school, which has exposure to many other tropical regions," he said.

He said that the support of the Ministry of Health, the management and staff of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, and the Bartica Regional Hospital was invaluable, and that the Military Tropical Medicine Team was very grateful for their incredible assistance.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy here said the cost of the course was met by the Navy School of Health Sciences at Bethesda, Maryland.

Co-ordination was done through the U.S. Embassy's Military Liaison Office.

The embassy said the event is intended to develop friendship and co-operation between the Guyanese hosts and their U.S. counterparts. It also serves to provide a training opportunity in a tropical environment for the U.S. doctors, and enhance medical expertise within Guyana.

"It is just one part of the United States Government's efforts to assist the Government of Guyana to provide health care in Guyana," the embassy said in a release.

Other completed or proposed programmes the embassy alluded to include the Medical Readiness Exchange at Kamarang last July; donations of medical equipment and supplies; the Burn Trauma Treatment Expert Exchange; and disease surveillance and monitoring programmes.

USAID is involved in the provision of assistance to combat HIV/AIDS, while Peace Corps Volunteers are involved in health education projects nationwide.

In brief remarks, Lieutenant Commander Calloway of the U.S. team, noted that at the end of their two weeks in Guyana, the American physicians intend compiling an information roster on patients seen, and diagnoses and treatment given so as to provide Guyana with information on work done.

She said that within the first few hours of work yesterday morning, the American doctors examined more than 100 patients. Some of the work done included testing for malaria.

Minister Ramsammy expressed gratitude to the U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. Southern Command for making possible the visit of the medical team, and the free medication and other assistance provided for Guyana through the programme.

Ambassador Godard referred to the alliance as another step in health diplomacy, to bring together health professionals to discuss common problems and to learn from one another.

He considered it very fortunate for Guyana to have Major Fitzgerald and the cooperation of the U.S. Southern Command.

He said the Southern Command is an institution that has been doing a very good job in terms of finding new ways of getting health professionals from the United States to come down to Guyana to offer assistance in the area of health care.

The Ambassador expressed appreciation to Major Fitzgerald; Dr. Ramsammy, Dr. Madan Rambarran and the Ministry of Health and others for assisting in the granting of licences to the doctors so that they could carry out their stint here.

Noting that it was all a very gratifying experience to have the doctors come here to work with local medical personnel from time to time, Godard expressed the hope that they would come back soon.

And in a gesture of appreciation for the cooperation received in making their training in Guyana possible, Lieutenant Commander Calloway presented plaques on behalf of the Military Tropical Medicine Team, to Ramsammy, Godard, Dr. Umadat, Matron Clarice Lowe and Ms. Merline Farrier of the Bartica Hospital.