GPHC to introduce electronic patient records
A percentage of the $524.6 million that has been proposed for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in the 2019 national budget is set to be used for the introduction of electronic medical records at the institution.
Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence told the National Assembly on Thursday that the health sector has started to test the Government Health Information System (GHIS) at the East La Penitence Health Centre, which is being used as the pilot to roll out Guyana’s first paperless health facility.
The GHIS, Lawrence explained, is a single electronic medical record platform that will capture pertinent patients’ information, including demographic data, medical history, clinical treatment data upon entry, thus eliminating the need for paperbased documentation.
She noted that in 2019 the GHIS will be instituted at the GPHC to allow the Corporation to commence and roll out the health management information system throughout the hospital.
Additionally, a pharmacy inventory module, directly linked to the essential drugs list, will be rolled out to aid doctors in the prescription of drugs, and ensure accountability.
The ministry has been at the centre of several controversies in relation to the procurement of drugs.
Opposition Parliamentarian Dr Frank Anthony had told the House on Tuesday that according to Auditor General (AG) Deodat Sharma’s recently report, the Public Health Ministry is guilty of breaking almost every section of the Procurement Act. He added that the malpractice in procurement “continues unabated” at the ministry.
Anthony cited the controversial contract awarded to New York-based firm HDM Labs Inc and said it was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and he called on the government to take action against the transgressor.
Among other things, the AG’s report stated that HDM Labs instead of an agreed two weeks, took six months to fully deliver on a contract valued hundreds of millions for “emergency” pharmaceutical supplies sought last year by the Public Health Ministry. The process under which the contract was awarded was called into question as HDM did not bid during the initial tender and later became the lone company to bid when the contract was retendered. The higher prices quoted for the drugs as opposed to those listed by the companies that initially bid for the contract was also highlighted in the report.
According to Anthony, from 2015 to 2017 the government spent vast sums to buy drugs and other medical supplies and many of the contracts were awarded on an emergency basis so that the deliveries were time-bound because of shortages in the health sector. However, he said what is “unbelievable” is that $345 million spent over a period of time was paid for drugs that were not delivered.
In responding to Anthony’s claims, Lawrence noted that a Procurement Department was established in 2017.
To heckles of “use it then,” the minister explained that the department is still a work in progress and noted that matters raised were “not swept under the carpet as was the custom of the previous administration” but were addressed through letters to staff involved, which were copied to the Financial Secretary and Auditor General for action.
The minister further noted that the ministry’s procurement staff has so far been involved in two training sessions—one hosted by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and the other by the Public Procurement Commission.
“The staff was provided with the requisite knowledge in procurement procedures in keeping with the Procurement Act,” she told the House, before adding that a USAID Consultant is currently in Guyana to assess the operating structure of the ministry’s procurement unit, provide hands-on coaching support with national procurement planning and contract management, and assist with terms of reference for a procurement tracking system.
The minister also noted that the staff quarters of the GPHC, located at Waterloo Street, will be completed and furnished, works to rehabilitate and extend the pre and post-natal wards at the maternity unit will commence, the mental health clinic will be renovated and transformed into a mental health ward and a four-storey building will be constructed in the GPHC compound to relocate the main pharmacy and the medical records department.
A claim that a trauma centre will be constructed to eliminate the inadequacies of the 18 bed Emergency Unit that exists at GPHC was challenged by opposition Parliamentarian Dr. Vindhya Persaud, who took the floor after Lawrence.
Persaud noted that there is no allocation for this project and pointed out that Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had actually said in his budget presentation that there is currently “discussion” on the project.
After the stressing that “construction of a new accident and
emergency facility can no longer be delayed,” Jordan indicated that government has “commenced discussions with interested development partners to build a modern, state-of-the-art trauma centre that will allow us to better manage emergency cases, including addressing patient flow, isolation and capacity.”
Lawrence, however, presented the centre as a fully conceptualised project, while stressing that its construction “will see an increase in the number of in-patient ward space, with the number of beds increasing from 483 to 1,000, more outpatient clinic space and an increase in the number of theatres from 5 to 12, including two separate theatres for Obstetrics and Gynaecology.”