The Di­a­mond Di­ag­nos­tic Cen­tre: A Ma­jor PPP/C Health Sec­tor Achieve­ment

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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.

Con­clu­sion

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.

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