New departments to strengthen health sector

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Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence addressing the House on Wednesday

PUBLIC Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, has announced that a number of new departments will be established in her Ministry, such as Human Resources Department, a Procurement Department and a Public Relations and Health Awareness Department, to address the issues facing the country’s health sector.

The public health minister made the announcement on Wednesday in the National Assembly as she defended the 2018 National Budget presented to the House just over a week ago by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.

Though faced with many challenges, she assured the House that her ministry has kept the momentum with focus on Goal #3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to ensure the health and well-being for all at all ages.

But in order to achieve this goal, Minister Lawrence argued that the coordination and efficient management of the available human, financial and physical resources is critical. It is for this reason the Public Health Ministry has sought to establish a Human Resources Department in partnership with PAHO/WHO and the Public Service Ministry.

“The Ministry of Public Health cannot continue to operate efficiently with a small Personnel Division, managing a workforce of over 3000 employees. Mr. Speaker, you can well appreciate the challenges and constraints, and the duress under which the staff has been operating, so this valuable department is being established to identify and fill the critical gaps of key and critical positions,” Minister Lawrence told the House.

This move, she argued, would pave the way for the services provided by all departments under the Ministry to be enhanced.
A Procurement Department has also been established, Minister Lawrence announced. The department is established at a time when the press has been flooded with reports of drug shortages linked to lapses within the supply and delivery process.

The Procurement Department is now responsible for the acquisition of drugs and medicines that meet prescribed safety and health standards at a cost-effective price.
“In light of the issues and recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry into the Ministry of Public Health’s procurement procedures, the reports and comments emanating from the Auditor General’s Office that have remained unaddressed for several years, and the investigation into the award for emergency drugs at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) together with the Public Procurement Commission’s findings on the matter; all these factors, Mr. Speaker, have emboldened the Ministry to establish a Procurement Department,” Minister Lawrence said as she defended her Ministry’s decision.

It was noted that the Procurement Department is fully staffed and includes a USAID-trained and experienced manager, supervisors and support staff.

This capable team, she assured, will ensure that the Public Health Ministry follows the guidelines stipulated in the Procurement Act.
Another strategic step that the Ministry has taken is to establish a Public Relations and Health Awareness Department, Minister Lawrence told the House.

“It is the Ministry’s belief that this Department has a pivotal role to play in educating the Guyanese population through the schools, media and outreaches about healthy practices and lifestyles, and ways of maintaining optimum health of the family. Sir, the Ministry is convinced that with this knowledge-based focused on preventative measures, citizens will make better choices and this will strongly impact and redound to less people falling ill and more persons at all levels enjoying health and well-being envisioned in our Health vision 2020,” she justified.

While the Statistical Department has been established for some time, it is currently deficient in terms of its human capacity, the Public Health Minister noted. Important health decisions, she stressed, cannot be arbitrarily taken based on assumptions, but must be guided by empirical evidence, hence, the critical need for current data and statistical information.

“This department will therefore be strengthened in terms of equipment and human capacity so that pertinent information can be accessed in a timely manner and the department can function with a greater level of efficiency and effectiveness,” she noted.

To further improve the services offered within the public healthcare sector, the ministry, in collaboration with PAHO/WHO and E-governance Unit, is embarking on enhancing the health information system in order to effectively collect and retrieve timely and accurate data and reports in keeping with our strategic Health Vision 2013-2020.

The partnership aims to enable standardised and complete documentation of patient’s health information in order to increase capacity for surveillance, reporting and decision-making activities.