The Diamond Diagnostic Centre: A Major PPP/C Health Sector Achievement
public health system is facing shortages of basic medicines and medical supplies. The extent of the shortages is unprecedented. Nowhere is this national dilemma more visible than at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, East Bank Demerara. This facility was established by the PPP/C Government and was the pride and joy of residents of the East Bank Demerara and far beyond.
Excellent performance under the PPP/C administration
The Diamond Diagnostic Centre, for all the years since its commissioning in 2009 by President Bharrat Jagdeo, had served well with few of any problems until now.
The hospital has been known to be a favorite healthcare destination of citizens from as far as Wales and other villages across the West Demerara, along the Linden highway and even as far as the Georgetown and villages of the East Coast Demerara.
The facility, since its commissioning, had never attracted negative media reports until recent weeks.
Now the hospital is even more prominent in the news for the past week. Shortages of basic medicines and janitorial supplies abound; the internal sewage system has collapsed; the general plumbing and water supply network is in disrepair and the air conditioning units are practically all old and defective.
All of these defects appeared under the APNU+AFC Coalition, but this particular defect in ventilation makes working in the hospital extremely difficult particularly when at peak hours there are large numbers of patients and their accompanying relatives seeking services.
Everything seems in short supply and in short supply simultaneously at every imaginable health facility operated by the APNU+AFC Coalition Government. That is to say, from the main national referral hospital - the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) - to the smallest of health posts serving remote Amerindian communities.
As a matter of fact, the shortages are so all-pervasive that older citizens are likening them to those which obtained over 20 years ago in the dark days of the PNC Governments of Burnham and Hoyte. These shortages had been by and large remedied by the PPP/C within the first two years following its historic victory at the historic 5th October, 1992 Elections.
The shortages are back
The medication shortages are back. Like the GPL blackouts are back. These medicines shortages have now afflicted the Public Health system for almost the past two consecutive years. This unsatisfactory situation first emerged even in the first few months of the new APNU+AFC Coalition Government. The situation progressively deteriorated to the current deplorable state even as huge sums of taxpayers’ monies are arbitrarily given to a specially favoured supplier of medicines and medical supplies in breach of our national procurement laws. The award of over G$ 605M by Minister Volda Lawrence’s Ministry to a favoured private company is still engaging the attention of the nation.
The unsatisfactory “shortages” situation over the past few months has been compounded and complicated by the emergence of other issues in the public health system.
These all have their genesis in the inept overall management by the Granger-Nagamootoo Coalition. These and other issues, which add to the frustration of patients and staff alike include, among others, broken physical infrastructure at the facilities and late payment of staff and private contractors.
The latest debacle unfolded last week at the Diamond Hospital.
The situation became so intolerable in recent weeks that the long suffering and deeply frustrated hospital staff contemplated “industrial action” in the form of a “sit-in”. The sewage “leakage,” which was probably the “last straw” is the direct result of chronic poor facility management. It is totally unacceptable given the nature of the facility. The failure to remedy the conditions at Diamond is extreme, but they are also very symptomatic of numerous other health facilities. The crisis is systemic.
The callous failure of the two Ministers of Public Health to address these burning concerns, which were repeatedly ventilated by the patient and hard-working hospital staff led to a “sit-in”.
The Diamond Diagnostic Centre: A strategic investment
The hospital was constructed by the PPP/C Administration. It was a strategic intervention into the health sector by the Jagdeo Administration. It was created to address a specific need or fill a specific gap. The then PPP/C Government recognized there at that time was no hospital on the heavily populated EBD. As a matter of fact, at that time ONLY basic GUYSUCO “Dispensaries” provided any health services in that area. Al- ternatively residents of the EBD were forced to travel to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
The PPP/C Administration further recognized that with its ongoing and projected expanded development of the EBD corridor that the continued absence of a full-fledged local hospital would be untenable. The then PPP/C Administration recognized that it had to simultaneously “roll out” multiple facets of its overall development plan for the EBD. The expected massive increase in the EBD population and the expected upsurge in vehicular traffic made the “fast tracking” of the Diamond Hospital imperative.
Recall that, like in so many other locations across Guyana, new housing projects were being executed by the PPP/C along the EBD. These included the large new Diamond Housing Scheme, which was emerging at that time in the immediate vicinity of the proposed Diamond Hospital. Recall, too, that this particular new housing estate project consisted of some 8,000 house lots.
A Guyanese household on the average consists of five persons. That is to say, it could be expected that shortly after the full completion of the new Diamond Housing Scheme at least 40,000 additional citizens would need medical services. Add to this the more thousands who would around the same time occupy the houses in the other new PPP/C created housing estates in other nearby locations on the EBD.
There was, then, a crying need for this hospital located strategically somewhere in easy reach of the residents of these emerging new housi ng schemes. These massive housing schemes were t hemselves a hallmark of the PPP/ C development agenda. Numerous similar modern housing schemes were being created in numerous other locations across the country. These were intended to address decades of neglect by the PNC Governments which resulted in an unmet need for thousands of homes. The Diamond Diagnostic Center, then, was part and parcel of a bigger vision. Its creation represented comprehensive planning and vision on the part of the PPP/C.
Cuba/Guyana Extended Health Corporation Agreement: South/South Corporation In Action
The construction of the Diamond Hospital was timely and well executed in all respects. It was provided with a modern Operating Theatre and a modern 10-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The complex included a dormitory for some 30 Cuban Specialist doctors, nurses and administrators.
The hospital with this staffing was one of the outcomes of the Castro/Jagdeo initiative concluded in February 2006 in Havana under the aptly named document: “Enhanced Corporation in the area of health between Cuba and Guyana Agreement”.
The grand plan for the improvement of Guyana’s Health Sector included the training in Cuba of at least 500 new Guyanese Medical Doctors who on graduating and on returning home would incrementally and gradually replace the Cuban nationals at these hospitals. Some five hundred young Guyanese students were sent to Cuban over the next few years in keeping with this aspect of the “Agreement”.
Many people forget this major component of “the Agreement”. Currently Guyana is currently practically self-sufficient in Graduate Doctors. Hundred of these young Guyanese medical doctors are now undergoing right here in Guyana Post-graduate training in General Surgery, Orthopaedics Surgery, Internal Medicine, Paediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology, among others. This is the grand PPP/C Vision continuously unfolding.
This was bold transformational planning. Initially for at least the first five years of its existence the Diamond Diagnostic Center would be in the main managed and operated by a comprehensive, multi-skilled Cuban Medical Team (CMT) headed by a Cuban hospital Director. The CMT would be always available on a 24-hour basis. To facilitate this aspect of the agreement a large residential dormitory was included in the design of the Diamond Diagnostic Center.
Similar facilities were planned and commissioned at Leonora, Suddie, and Mahaicony. The construction of the Leonora, Suddie and Mahaicony Diagnostic Centers was similarly timely and well executed in all respects.
The current deterioration of services at the Diamond Hospital must be seen against this background . The PPP/C development plans had included its almost immediate expansion as funds from the then buoyant national economy became available. Recall that for several consecutive years Guyana’s GDP showed a healthy 5% annual growth.
PPP/C planned to add 150 bed in-patient ward
A large plot of land was specifically kept vacant on the front aspect of the then new Diamond Diagnostic Center premises or compound for the construction of a 150 bed In-patient facility. This in-patient edifice was scheduled to have wards for males and female and a paediatric and neonatal unit. The then Ministry of Health, under my watch, had commended discussions with the a Ministry of Finance on this proposal.
The construction, equipping, staffing and commissioning of this much needed In-Patient wards would have been completed already had the PPP/C still been in office.
The Diamond Hospital also was used by the PPP/C Government as the base for the continuing MISSION MIRACLE eye care Programme after its initial phase which saw thousands of poor Guyanese flown to Cuba for eye surgery - totally free of persona finincial cost.
The well equipped and staffed Ophthalmology unit at the Diamond Hospital acted as the screening center for perspective eye surgery patients. Those identified as needing eye surgery were then free of all personal financial casts transported twice weekly from Diamond to the National Ophthalmology Hospital at Port Mourant for their respective eye surgeries and back to Diamond on to their homes on the way there afterwards.
The expansion of the Diamond Diagnostic Center must still be seen as a national Health Sector priority. Guyanese of all walks must demand the completion of this phase of the PPP/C plans for a full-fledged 150-bed Regional Hospital at Diamond.
Instead, the Fat Cats in the APNU+AFC Coalition are wasting enormous sums of money on themselves and on unnecessary extravagances.
The expenditure of almost G$1B on the D’urban Park “alternate” stadium for the Jubilee Independence celebrations would better have been spent on achieving this lofty PPP/C vision for the massive expansion and upgrade of the Diamond Diagnostic Center. The existing National Stadium at Providence easily was available for the Jubilee Celebrations and similar grand events. It was built by the PPP/C for such grand mass events. It is against that the harsh criticisms of the woeful waste at D’urban Park must be seen.
The unfolding disaster at the Diamond Hospital is inexcusable. This unfolding disaster in our public health system is confirmation that the APNU+AFC Cabinet Ministers are wallowing in massive underperformance.