Burn Care Unit opened at GPHC
By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
November 11, 2002

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History was created at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) yesterday when the first ever Burn Care Unit in the country was officially opened by former president, Janet Jagan.

The unit, which is located on the floor beneath the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), has six rooms for patients, a nurses' multi-purpose room, a utility room, a special bathroom area, male and female toilets and an operating theatre which is still to be equipped.

It cost the hospital some $5 million to rehabilitate the area for the unit while equipment, including doors, windows and beds and training of nurses were provided by the Plasticos Charities Foundation (PCF) founded and directed by Dr Timothy Sproule and Harry Harackh at a cost of Cdn$40,000. PCF will assist with the management of the facility.

The organisation, which has received donations from a number of groups and individuals in Canada, will also equip the theatre.

The unit is capable of delivering specialised care from management of acute cases to full rehabilitation of burn patients.

Giving a background to the formation of the unit, Director of Medical & Professional Services, GPHC, Dr Madan Rambaran, said that the idea for the unit was born out of a collaboration between GPHC and Dr Sproule and Harackh. The two initially made several visits to the hospital to do voluntary surgery for cleft lips and palates and other procedures. During the course of their visits, Dr Rambaran said there were discussions on what could be done to strengthen the hospital to meet its mandate.

He said that yesterday's ceremony was not an end but rather part of a process. He disclosed that already there have been enhancements of the institution's capacity. A number of nurses have had training in burn and wound care management and this is already benefiting the hospital's patients. Dr Rambaran said as the unit develops the GPHC expects it to become a centre of excellence providing a level of burn and wound care comparable to the best practice anywhere in the world. "Whatever we may decide as the responsibilities of GPHC, a first-class burn and wound care centre would have to be one of them," he said.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy in his address described the opening of the unit as "a labour of love" as many people worked towards making it a reality.

He added that the centre is an example of collaboration between the government, the public and health sectors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The minister said that is the kind of model of development that is being pursued.

Acknowledging that the hospital has several weaknesses, the minister said that every day it is getting better. He said when he became chairman of the hospital's board in 1998 simple things like removing garbage was a big problem.

"This institution today in spite of its weaknesses, also is the strongest in terms of occupational health and safety and it is the only institution in this country with a specialist occupational health and safety personnel," the minister said. According to Dr Ramsammy it is collaboration, "that is making it work and every day that we see skills walking across our horizon we grab them, every day we grab them. And ladies and gentlemen I have no apologies to tell you today that we have broken the rules to make it better, and as minister of health I would break the rules every day to make this institution better! Rules were never made to impede progress, rules were made to guide us and as long as we are transparent and accountable, I will break the rules and let the president fire me!"

Dr Sproule outlining some of the services the hospital hopes to offer at the unit said it includes, aggressive resuscitation which means patients don't die from shock, intensive dressing and therapy, effective insulation, early burn surgery and effective rehabilitation.

Their goals are to achieve the most rapid and effective healing, achieve the most functional outcome and look after the patients' cosmetic appearances. He said that he hopes that cosmetic surgeries will be performed in the unit since there is no burn patient who does not have major cosmetic concerns and he feels that the treatment would not be complete without this.

"But that's way down the road, the initial things we will have to do are to look after life and limb and that's what our focus is at the present time," he said.

He noted that isolation rooms are a very important part of the programme. The doctor stressed that for effective rehabilitation of patients nurses will have to work extremely hard to provide what is necessary to assist the patients.

He said from a study that was done it was found that over a two-year period 136 burn patients with burns over 14% of their body were admitted to the hospital and sixteen of those patients died. The study said that the average length of stay at the hospital by these patients was forty days and only 11 of all of those patients went to the operating theatre.

In contrast, he said that the American Burn Association records show that there are very few patients who die after sustaining burns to under 16% of their body and the length of hospitalisation is about one day per percentage burn.

Also present at the opening was Minister of Human Services & Social Security, Bibi Shadick.

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