Another boost for the Health sector as…
First hospice for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS opens its doors

Kaieteur News
March 30, 2007

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Guyana 's first hospice for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) opened its doors in South Georgetown yesterday.

The ground breaking project represents a collaborative effort between the US government's PEPFAR initiative, the Health Ministry, AIDS Relief and the Diocese of Georgetown's Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP).

The SSVP Care Centre will meet the increasing need for rehabilitative facilities for people recovering from serious illnesses as a result of HIV infection.

The Centre will house between 16-18 clients for both Palliative and Rehabilitative care based on strict admission and discharge criteria.

The services at the centre will be closely linked with existing facility and community-based HIV care and treatment services, and constitutes an integral component of the holistic development of adequate care and treatment services in the country.

Palliative Care Project Officer, Pamela Mittelholzer stated that the project was born out of a growing need for hospital and rehabilitative facilities as HIV care and treatment programmes.

It is estimated that there are 20,000 persons living with HIV in Guyana , of which 4,000 are late in the course and would qualify for antiretroviral therapy (ART) and at some point require hospitalisation.

Further, as quality and access to hospital care for AIDS improves, the inpatient census will increase and hospital wards will quickly exceed their capacity.

Patient discharge will involve triage, and there will be the need to ensure that patients discharged from these facilities receive supervised “step-down” care and support until they are able to transition to their homes/places of origin.

In addition, various care providers expect that hospice services will be needed to allow those in need of end-of-life care to die in comfort and dignity.

SSVP has provided such a facility, she noted, which was financed from AIDS/Relief.

The building is on three floors with a large courtyard known as the ‘David Rose Care Centre'.

Currently 10 beds are available and the hospice will begin taking referrals from the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Davis Memorial Hospital and Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital .

In delivering the feature address, Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy applauded the partnership between civil society and government in bringing the care centre to fruition.

“This project is a demonstration model of how we can bring the public sector and the church together to provide much needed services.

He referred to it as the realisation of a project that has been long talked about.

Acknowledging that the hospice is an integral part of comprehensive service provided to PLWHA, he pointed to the need for a network of step-down services and expressed the hope that the facility heralds the beginning of this network.

Further, he noted the importance of these types of services to be provided not only in Georgetown but in other parts of the country as well.

Ramsammy emphasised that the Care Centre can also serve as a model to address other social issues affecting Guyana , such as homelessness and mental illness.

The Minister committed his Ministry to providing nutritional support for the Care Centre with the full support of Cabinet.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador David Robinson noted that the project is the latest in a series by Guyanese which indicates that they really care about people who are afflicted with and affected by the disease.

“I thank you. You have shown that by being most human you can be most effective and have shown that you care more about helping people than policies, and that is laudable”

The Society of St Vincent De Paul was founded in Paris in 1833 by Frederick Organam.

The Society is named after St Vincent De Paul who lived from 1581-1660 and whose life was devoted to helping the underprivileged, and came to Guyana in 1858.

In June 2006, a delegation from the AIDS Relief project met a team from the Society to conduct a visit to the homes, hostel and homestead managed by the Society.

On December 4, 2006, a contract to establish a Care Centre for PLWHA was signed by the two entities.