Rural, hinterland communities to benefit most from health $$
--- Guyana gets gold for immunization programme By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
April 19, 2004

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HEALTH CARE over the next few years will receive a significant boost as several new and modern medical facilities are to be constructed.

Several outlying communities, including Linden, Lethem and Mabaruma are due to benefit from improved medical care through the construction of new hospitals with modern facilities, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy disclosed during the winding up of the budget debate last Friday.

Dr. Ramsammy told the National Assembly that the architectural plan for the new Linden Hospital is being prepared and construction on the building is scheduled to begin early next year, while negotiations are in train for the funding of new hospitals at Lethem and Mabaruma.

He said, too, the service at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) will be dramatically improved through the implementation of several initiatives.

These include the development of a cardiac unit over the next three-five years; training of local neurosurgeons in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Surgeons; construction of a $26M state-of-the-art Public Health Laboratory equipped to carry out all the requisite HIV screening and tests; construction of a $70M chemotherapy unit and a $200M project to improve the water and sewer system.

In addition, under a number of special projects, screening programmes will be conducted in schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to determine children with sight and hearing problems, as well as a nutritional deficiency.

Under the same programme too, teachers will be trained to read optical charts to help identify the children with defective vision, Minister Ramsammy noted.

Also, children who need spectacles and surgery will be register under another programme to be known as "Save the Sight Initiative". Efforts will be concentrated too to reduce the backlog of cataract cases to a 3% deficit.

According to Dr. Ramsammy, the present budgetary allocation will see an increase in health care spending to US$60 per capita, as against US$15 several years ago. He pointed out that as a result of $220M being spent on immunization Guyana achieved gold medal status in this area, thereby outstripping even some developed countries.

With support from the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), the minister said 40,000 children and 10,000 women will receive vouchers for micronutrients from this year.

Earlier in his presentation, Dr. Ramsammy launched a scathing attack on the People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) pointing out that in 1991 the PNC government allocated only 8.9% of the budget to the social sector, while under this government the comparable figure is about 30%.

"We have a contract with the Guyanese people not to sacrifice the welfare of the people," Dr. Ramsammy emphasized.

The minister also lashed out at the PNC/R for boycotting the National Assembly accusing them of being afraid to face their sordid record in government, which has caused them to lose every free and fair election in Guyana.

He also reminded the House of many of the failed promises of the PNC Government including the Upper Mazaruni hydroelectric project, the glassworks and the Vanceram pottery enterprise.

The Health Minister who exhorted the PNC/R to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to their constituency by attending Parliament, however commended the representatives of the Working People's Alliance/Guyana Action Party (WPA/GAP) and the Rise Organize and Rebuild (ROAR) Party for steadfastly representing their constituencies in the National Assembly.