Three private hospitals licensed
Stabroek News
April 23, 2004

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It's official: Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday issued annual licences to three private hospitals. In photo Ramsammy (second from right) poses with representatives of St Joseph Mercy Hospital, Woodlands Hospital and Georgetown Medical Inc.

Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday presented licences to three private hospitals in keeping with the Private Hospital Act of 1972.

Georgetown Medical Inc, formerly Prasad's, St Joseph Mercy and Woodlands hospitals were issued annual licences that can be revoked if required standards fall below the minimum. Under the revised Act of 1972 annulled licences can lead to the closure of private hospitals. Davis Memorial Hospital and Medical Arts Centre are to be re-inspected before given licences later this year.

Addressing the media, Ramsammy said the 1972 Act stipulated that private hospitals must be licensed, but enforcement was weak. An inspectorate was set up in 2001 to function under a specific mandate.

He added that minimum acceptable standards for the annual licence are expected to expand over the next few years and as a consequence private hospitals will be forced to maintain a certain standard or face closure. Ramsammy said the Act did not make provisions for unlicensed hospitals to be closed, but it gave the Minister of Health the power to close hospitals. He disclosed that next year Cabinet will seek to pass a new Facility Licence Bill that will make provisions for a licence to be refused as well as closure for hospitals that fail to meet the required conditions.

Plans are also underway to boost local laboratory services with the introduction of inter-laboratory testing. The minister said laboratories will soon share patients' specimens and effectively end the growing concern of varying laboratory test results that patients receive.

Internal evaluations are also expected to commence in all hospitals in the event of a death and according to Ramsammy hospitals will go through this process before people call for investigations into deaths.

Notably, HIV care is being supported by both public and private hospitals, the minister pointed out and cancer programmes are also being integrated.

Administrative Officer at Woodlands Hospital Sharon Ramdin told Stabroek News that the licence buttresses the mission statement at Woodlands, which is, to provide affordable, quality medical care to Guyanese.

Sister Sheila Walsh of St Joseph Mercy Hospital said her institution has been working towards quality medical service years before the ministry made recommendations for a licence.

And she said Mercy Hospital was a step ahead of the ministry in the evaluation of death cases, adding that it started a Morbidity Confer-ence six months ago where cases are reviewed.

Licences are currently being granted at a fee of $200,000. The minimum acceptable standards set out for hospital service entail a combination of local standards and those that exist in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Under Governance and Administration the standards are that every hospital has a policy-making body and documented administrative structure. The administrative structure must include a designated official responsible and accountable for medical care.

Organisation of Medical Care requires the hospital to have a Medical Director/ Superintendent who administers the care and assumes responsibility for it as well as for its supervision.

As for Clinical Laboratory Service, every hospital must have access to a competent laboratory service. At least one qualified Medical Technologist on a full-time basis must be on staff.

Emergency Services provided must have a physician on active duty 24 hours a day, functioning with exclusive use of a site and nurses dedicated to the service. Every hospital must have an emergency service rendering life-saving First Aid and making appropriate referrals to the nearest facilities that have the capacity to provide the specialist service.

Diagnostic Imaging states that operators of x-ray equipment must be formally trained in theory and practicals for at least 12 months at a recognised institution. A physician must always be present when an intravenous injection is being administered.

For haemotherapy the hospital must have access to an approved Blood Transfusion Service available nearby from which it obtains blood quickly and which meets the standard of Communicable Disease Control.

Other requirements include record keeping, occupational safety and health and quality assurance. (Iana Seales)