Requests for overseas medical treatment have dropped - Ramsammy
Stabroek News
March 17, 2007

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Many health services for which government previously supported travel abroad are now available in the private sector and as a result requests for overseas medical treatment have fallen.

In a written response in Parliament on Thursday, to a question raised by Alliance For Change Member of Parliament Sheila Holder, Ramsammy said requests for assistance for treatment overseas have dropped, while requests for cost-sharing of these services in Guyana have increased. He pointed out that services such as angioplasty, valve replacements and by-pass surgery are being offered here now. He said government still supports diagnostic services such as CT and MRI scans and treatment for various conditions, including heart disease, hip and joint replacements and dialysis, but these are done locally.

He said some of the eye treatment being done overseas will soon be available at the Port Mourant Ophthalmology Centre which will further reduce the need for travel overseas for medical treatment.

Ramsammy said anyone can apply to the Ministry of Health for assistance. The ministry conducts two different assessments to determine the appropriateness of the request, and the ability of the person to pay and to ensure that all options are being pursued by the patient. This includes NIS and private health insurance among other things.

"The decision to support can be made at the level of the Chief Medical Officer and the Permanent Secretary if the costs are less than US$1,000. The Minister's no objection is required if the costs are up to US$2,000. For sums greater than US$2,000, a no objection from Cabinet is required," Ramsammy said.

Responding in writing to another question in the name of PNCR-1G MP, Volda Lawrence concerning medical facilities available to residents of North Sophia and Plum Park, Ramsammy said both areas are included in the catchment area for the functioning health centre in Sophia.

He said the health centre provides service between 8 am and 4.30 pm and is staffed with a doctor, medex, midwife, nurse aide and a pharmacy assistant. The services offered include maternal and child health care, family planning, voluntary counselling and testing, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and chronic diseases clinic.

According to him, with an improved road network and bridges in the entire Sophia area, Plum Park and North Sophia are less than five minutes by vehicle and ten minutes by walking from the health centre.

He added that Sophia residents like all city residents can access 24-hour service through the Georgetown Public Hospital and also benefit from ambulance services operated by the Georgetown, St Joseph Mercy and Davis Memorial hospitals.

And in response to another question raised by Lawrence in relation to ambulance services in sub-region two of Region Eight, Ramsammy said there is an ambulance located at Mahdia which serves a number of areas.

The minister pointed out that health care services of Region Eight are under the supervision of the Regional Democratic Council, which also handles the budget for health care services in the region.

However, he said the ministry advises and monitors the implementation of the programmes in the regions, adding that Region Eight has to determine whether it needs another ambulance and make the appropriate request.

He said the ministry has, as part of the National Health Plan, advised all RDCs since 2003 that a viable ambulance service needs to be developed and that each region should develop a plan to ensure adequate and effective ambulance service is available.

Additionally, he said, a new training programme is being put in place to train personnel to work with ambulances around the country to enhance the ambulance service.

The programme is being developed at the Georgetown Public Hospital.