Concerns raised over staffing for new NA hospital By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
April 9, 2003

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Guyana's eastern-most region (East Berbice/Corentyne) will by the end of next year boast a new multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art hospital, compliments of the Japanese Government, but concerns are rife that staffing of the new entity is not being adequately addressed.

Work on the complex, which will eventually house seven buildings on sprawling virgin land on the northern edge of New Amsterdam, began last month under the first phase. The 18,779.6 square metre block of land which encompasses the old New Amsterdam prison farm has already been cleared and a temporary chain-link fence erected.

A source at the New Amsterdam hospital told Stabroek News last week that some doctors and medical technologists have left the institution over recent times creating worrying personnel vacancies. Among the existing vacancies are four general medical officers (GMOs), pharmacist assistants, a general surgeon, a gynecologist and dental technologists to run the hospital's dental programme.

According to the source several requests have been made recently for these positions to be filled but to no avail. One major problem is the absence of adequate housing for doctors who may be identified for posting to the township. Another is the unattractive salaries offered medical practitioners who may be available for posting from another region. "Even if doctors may be willing to come to Berbice, there is no housing for them. We have had problems with medical staff at the existing hospital for sometime now and it is difficult to see how this age-old problem will be resolved in time for the opening of the new hospital," said another source at the hospital.

One prominent doctor who is in private practice expressed concern that the project does not include the construction of quarters for doctors. "We have some facilities a mere stone's throw from the existing hospital and yet we have been experiencing problems with doctors responding promptly to calls during an emergency. If no housing is available for residents to stay either within the new compound or in close proximity to it, the situation will either continue or deteriorate further," he declared.

Stabroek News understands that permission has to be granted by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon for the appointment of doctors to the region. According to the doctor, a block should be constructed within the compound for resident doctors and to attract foreign doctors who may be willing to come and work at the hospital.

Built into the project is the training of technicians to man the equipment to be provided by the Japanese. Japanese experts will also remain at the institution for some three months after its completion to supervise the training and ensure proper use of the equipment.

Concerns have been raised in the past over the inadequacy of GMOs and specialists at the New Amsterdam Hospital. Several allegations have been made also about deaths at the institution, which relatives of deceased patients claim were the result of either the unavailability of doctors or their tardiness in responding to calls in cases of emergency.

The first phase of the new hospital complex will see the construction of a laundry, sewing room, kitchen, scullery, canteen, electrical room and eight wards with a capacity of 114 beds at a cost of US$5 million.

The second phase will include the construction of the main administration building, an outpatient department and a central clinical building, at a cost of an additional US$6 million. Under the Grant Aid project, the Japanese Government will also fund the provision of equipment for the institution which will replace the 119-year-old existing hospital. The first phase is scheduled to be completed by March 2004 while the second phase which is expected to commence in October should be completed by September next year.

The outpatient department building will be located close to the public road to facilitate access by outpatients. Ward buildings will be located deep inside the site to avoid noise from the public road while buildings related to medical care activities will be single storey to facilitate mobility of patients.

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