Govt paid for sick child's initial treatment
-Ministry of Health

Stabroek News
October 31, 2002

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The Ministry of Health says it paid for the initial treatment for a sick child who appeared on a television programme causing viewers to donate $3.4M in only a few hours.

Six-year-old Venola Sam has since left for Trinidad where she is expected to undergo treatment for suspected lymphoblastic leukemia. A programme on Channel Six saw its owner Chandra Narine Sharma, make an appeal for the child prompting an overwhelming response.

A ministry press release said the story carried on television as people were being asked to make donations, failed to properly indicate that the government covered all the initial costs for evaluation and treatment.

The ministry also noted that the PNCR had criticised the government for not providing support contrary to the fact that the government covered the initial costs.

According to the release the initial referral of Sam's case was made to the ministry by the Georgetown Public Hospital on August 8 and the referral reported that the child's case was suggestive of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The release said that the referral made it clear that confirmatory tests that are unavailable in Guyana were needed and the child was being referred for that purpose.

As a result the Chief Medical Officer requested advice from Mount Hope Hospital in Trinidad which accepted that the clinical indication was suggestive of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and gave an estimated cost of approximately US$8,000. The release said the overseas hospital wanted the payment up front and further indicated that if the diagnosis were to be confirmed, the initial treatment would have to be extended and, therefore, there would be further costs.

Following this a request was made to Cabinet to approve funding for the sum presented by Mount Hope to cover the confirmatory tests and the initial treatment, if necessary. Government approved this sum so that Sam could obtain services for evaluation and initial treatment. "We always expected that further requests would be made on behalf of this child," the release said.

The release said Sam like many Guyanese children and adults require treatment that is not available in Guyana and while the government has responded by extending the services of the health sector many of those persons have had to go abroad for treatment. "Unfortunately, we cannot afford to provide assistance to everyone and assistance to some have been partial," the release said.

The release said that on several occasions once treatment commences, the estimated cost exceeds what was allocated for the patient and the government is often asked to meet the additional expenses and in most cases it has responded.

The release did note that Guyanese have proven they are a generous people in their donations, however, it said that it is important that people are aware of all the facts before they are asked to make donations.