No shortage of money
Kaieteur News
July 26, 2004

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Those who condemn the past are bound to repeat it. Guyana is making the same mistakes it did in the past by highlighting a few incidents within the health sector with an overview of the deficiencies of the entire system.

We need a holiday to be declared in Guyana! Guyana has made history again. And only two months after we had the first simultaneous telecast of the Independence flag raising ceremony.

Guyana is making history. We have a female world-boxing champion, a female head of the Guyana Manufacturing Association and the Income Tax head is announcing tax policy.

If that were not enough, Guyana has now recorded its first pacemaker insertion surgery, quite an accomplishment considering that pacemakers were on the market since 1957. And to top it all, it took place at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

I wish to express congratulations to the President of Guyana, the Cabinet, the Minister of Health and the top man at the Georgetown Public Hospital for this historic event.

This is indeed a great day for the entire nation and one that shows that Guyana is making strides in the health sector. Imagine the third ice age has not yet reached and we have been able to have a pacemaker insertion surgery being completed in Guyana.

It will only be a matter of time before the day comes when a Guyanese surgeon will perform the operation locally for the first time.

The Minister of Health is no doubt elated that this new technology has finally come to Guyana. But while he is at it, he should inform the public whether there are any MRI and CT scanners in the public health institutions in Guyana.

If the answer is that there are no CT and MRI machines, the Minister should explain when he feels Guyana will make history again by procuring these machines which perform tests that are now considered routine in the medical field.

Money is not in short supply when it comes to the health sector. The system is awash in funds. I recall reading somewhere that the United States Government is providing to the government of Guyana the sum of US$34M or some G$6.8 billion to help fight HIV/AIDS in Guyana.

This money will be directed to both preventing the disease as well as to treat infected persons. In all, it is estimated that some 25,000 persons will be secured against possible infection or treated if they have the disease. When you divide $6.8 billion by 25,000, it works out to spending some G$272,000 per person.

This is an astronomical sum to be spending on HIV/AIDS but while the goal of saving every human life is laudable, it may not increase the marginal population growth that Guyana has realized ever since the PPP came to power. Spending that sum of money per capita is historic because I cannot recall any health programme actually spending so much per head.

That is historic; so historic that a presidential commission has been formed to oversee the implementation of the programme. This commission is headed by the president himself and packed with top members of Cabinet, a sure sign of the importance that is being paid to the spending of the huge sums.

The health sector needs to examine the delivery of its services. There is no shortage of money. Therefore what we should be concentrating on is to ensure that we have in place the machinery and personnel to deliver proper services to the people of Guyana.

In this regard, a serious examination must be made by the donor community who must resist simply pumping additional funds into the system, unless it is convinced that there exists the personnel and equipment to provide the desired level of service to the people of this country.

Huge sums are going to be spent in the next few years on the fight against AIDS. It is important that there be proper oversight into this process, not only because of the huge investment to be made, but particularly because of the need to ensure that it leads to improved outcomes.

The tragedy of this country is that on issues such as health we can be so lax as to condone not having basic equipment, even after a situation where a former Head of State was admitted to the hospital with a heart attack and could not be treated because there was blackout and the standby generator was said not to be functional.

Yes, it is good that we can save a life by performing a pacemaker implant operation.

But what’s this deplorable and unacceptable situation concerning the availability of CT scan and MRI machines at our central hospital?