Health Ministry faces heart, obesity challenges By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
December 23, 2006

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HEALTH Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy says chronic diseases have become more prevalent here and diabetes, hypertension, cardiac (heart) disease, cancer and obesity now loom high on the horizon in Guyana.

To this end, he said Thursday, the Health Ministry has intensified its efforts at managing and controlling these diseases which now affect more than 30,000 persons in Guyana.

He said that since diabetes is not curable, there will now be greater emphasis on prevention delaying and preventing the onset of the disease for as long as possible, through earlier diagnosis.

He is therefore urging persons to make use of the service and not wait until it is too late.

Ramsammy said this has been a very successful, rather hectic and exciting year for the health sector in Guyana.

At an end of year press conference in his ministry, an evidently elated Ramsammy alluded to large volumes of work being undertaken in the sector.

He added that because of the heavy work load, President Bharrat Jagdeo and Cabinet had agreed that it was appropriate to appoint a second minister to help expedite the demands of the health sector. Dr. Bheri Ramsarran, formerly with the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) was named and has taken up the mantle.

Noting that the health sector is in transition, he said it was moving away from the situation as obtained in the past where infectious diseases dominated, to one where chronic diseases have become more prevalent.

To cope with the epidemiological transition being pursued, he said, systems have been put in place.

This, he explained, necessitated revolutionising the infrastructure at the GPHC and at health centres around the country; placing greater emphasis on training health centre personnel at varying levels, and ushering in a more dynamic and spirited approach to following up patient care through home visits.

According to Ramsammy, the gains of such an approach are reflected in:

** Significant advances in the control of Malaria in Guyana, with a more than 54 per cent reduction in cases reported, compared to 2005. As at December 15 last, there were 17,034 cases, compared to more than 38,000 for the same reporting period in Regions One and Seven. Reporting is now being done weekly.

** A radical expansion of training of health sector personnel, with almost 600 persons being trained at varying levels 250 already selected and due to commence nursing training at different levels in 2007; others as Rural Midwives; a Post/Basic Midwifery Programme; Community Health Workers Programme; upgrading the DOTS worker in the Tuberculosis Treatment Programme to Community Health Worker programme; admission of more persons to the traditional Medex programme; a Dentex Diploma Programme; a Dentex Assistant Programme; a Community Dental Therapist programme; and the Dentistry Programme at the University of Guyana. There are also post-graduate programmes for doctors in surgical practice in the areas of Gynaecology, Obstetrics, Ophthalmology and Internal Medicine.

** Significant advances in heart care in cardiac intervention. The stage has been set for open heart surgery to be performed in Guyana for the first time in the new year.

** Greater emphasis on prevention of chronic diseases delaying the onset and progression of the disease.

** The Cancer Treatment Centre has been opened the GPHC compound and Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy can now be accessed at the centre; 200 persons are reportedly using the service.

** Greater emphasis on getting persons counselled and tested for HIV: 25,000 persons were tested for 2006.

** A National Day of Testing being held last month with a favourable response.

** 87 functioning HIV testing sites available around the country.

** More than 200 Persons Living with HIV/AIDS now on treatment at the GPHC Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM Clinic).

Other achievements in the health sector include:
** Releasing the Diabetic Guidelines document which establishes minimum standards to be utilised by the health sector in dealing with the disease

** The introduction of a comprehensive health programme which supports a comprehensive evaluation of patients presenting themselves for medical care, and

** The imminent launching (in January) of a National Oversight Steering Committee on Chronic Diseases

Meanwhile, to maintain the favourable trend noted in the reduction of malarial cases in the country, Ramsammy said that as part of preparations for Cricket World Cup 2007, extensive fogging in Georgetown, the East Bank and East Coast Demerara will be carried out before March.

The Ministry of Health, he said, is committed to ensuring a healthy nation, and continues to expend huge sums in upgrading skills and infrastructure.