By Wendella Davidson
THE West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) situated at Best Village, in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), is the premier institution that overlooks all of the health facilities across the region.
The facility has had its fair share of criticism as it relates to its health care service, but according to Health Administrator (HA) Ms. Kathlene Armstrong, the institution is assiduously upping its game to give the best service to residents of the region.
And, recently assigned Regional Health Officer (RHO) Dr Cerdel Mc Watt, who has responsibility for overseeing the health programme in the entire region, is of the view that Region Three has great capacity in terms of health-care delivery and in terms of Guyana’s 2020 vision.
To this end, the RHO, whose appointment there began on February 1 last, has since established a regional administrative team consisting of the medical superintendent, the matron who supervises the nurses throughout the region, the regional pharmacist, the regional health coordinator, who is the liaison between the region and central ministry in relation to health matters and the HA who has responsibility for the WDRH, Leonora, Leguan and Wakenaam hospitals.
The administrative team not only visits the riverain communities, but also the health centres within the region, to ensure that drugs and the storage facilities at the respective locations are in order. They also check on the nurses and the Community Health Workers (CHWs). Ms Armstrong pointed out that at locations where no doctors and nurses are posted, for example at Aliki, a location on the Essequibo River some 15 miles above Parika, a CWH performs the duty of medex and nurse. Training for the CHWs who function at Saxakalli, at Karia Karia, Beribissiballi, Lanaballi, Morasi, Fort Island, Makouria, Hogg Island, Great Troolie and Little Troolie Island, is conducted at the WDRH.
“We visit and look at infrastructure, drugs, human resource, patient load and how they can be assisted. For instance, recently, information was received that the storage facility for the drugs at Aliki is not in perfect condition. So when the team visits that location, if there is a resident who can undertake the work, the contract would be given to that individual. And, in the case where no one is found the cupboards will then be built and transported there, “ Ms. Armstrong said.
So far visits were made to Leguan, Wakenaam, Lanaballi, and Santa Aratak in the Upper Demerara River; and on April 1, the team was scheduled to visit Karia Karia, Hogg Island, Great Troolie, South and Northern Hogg Island and Aliki.
The health administrator said she basically has responsible for all infrastructural works: infrastructure, porter services, housekeeping, vehicles and drivers, stores, the dietary department, accounts, electricians, steam plants, the carpentry shops and the communication rooms, across the region.
The services available are Ear, Nose and Throat; Skin; Chronic disease, Maternity, Out Patients, Accident &Emergency (A&E) ; Physiotherapy; VCT; Theatrical Services; Mental Health; Tuberculosis (TB); Paediatrics; Ultrasound , Orthopaedics, X-ray and Laboratory.
She noted that the challenges experienced in general are many, and have to do with attitudes of all stakeholders at the hospital, be it patients, doctors, nurses, relatives, or the hospital administrator.
“We ought to be able to change our attitude sometimes, because at the end of the day it is all about patient care,” she said, and reminded of the medical superintendent who has emphasised that it is all about a change of attitude that will make the institution a better one.
The HA opined that the facility is doing reasonably well as a hospital, in spite of the negatives. On this note, she made reference to two recently published articles in another section of the media, but according to her, those criticisms can be defended.
Touching on the delivery of drugs in the region in a timely manner, Armstrong explained that drugs are dispensed to the WDRH every three months , but pointed out, “ If the drugs have to be used to service people coming from Wakenaam and Leguan, for example on Sundays, when everyone is seeking medical attention from those areas, then it means that the drugs collected for the catchment area will never be enough.”
She further explained that persons have grown accustomed to using Panadol as a pain reliever, but noted that it is not the only one, there are other substitutes. “All that is needed is to let the doctors know what drugs are in stock. Since the arrival of the RHO, he has instituted a stock reminder that indicates what drugs are in stock and what are out of stock, so that the doctors are aware of the situation. In the event a particular drug is exhausted before the three-month period, there is an emergency requisition to MMU (Materials Management Unit) that allows for the drug to be replenished. And, in the event the specific drug is out of stock at the MMU, then the region will utilise its budget allocation to purchase same,” she added.
As the facility seeks to improve its health care service, Armstrong said the Outpatients Department has been redesigned and now refitted with four cubicles, each consisting of a bed to allow the respective doctors to conduct an examination, if needs be, and too allow for better doctor and patient privacy.
And, recently, the administration purchased a new digital processor, thus eliminating use of the previous antique equipment and the mixture of solutions. With the new equipment, films are processed almost immediately.
Armstrong was previously stationed at the Leonora Diagnostic Centre, but was transferred to the WDRH on March 7, 2018 from Leonora, shortly after that facility was inundated with water caused by a breach of the adjacent sea defence. She said not long after her arrival there, she was instrumental in motivating the technicians to continue working on the mortuary refrigerator that had been unserviceable for months. Eventually, after several failed attempts, they found the fault and the mortuary has been working However, the facility will soon benefit from an eight-compartment freezer, an upgrade from the open–type compartment currently in use. Mortuary services are free, Armstrong reminded, but it is for the storage of people who were brought to the facility for medical attention and are pronounced dead on arrival (DOA).
The WHDH also offers ambulatory services, but that service caters only for the referral of patients from institution to institution, and not from home to institution, even though depending on the circumstance, the rule can be relaxed.
The health administrator said it is her desire to see the ambulatory services being extended to some senior citizens, who, according to her, are really in need of that that kind of service.
Meanwhile, the regional health coordinator (RHC) of Region Three, who functions as the liaison between the health ministry in the region and the central ministry in city, is a young doctor who is fluent in Mandarin, the Chinese language. She has been on the job for the last six months.
Dr Tnika Jones, 29, lived in China from age 12, having accompanied her mom, a foreign service employee who served as secretary to three of Guyana’s ambassadors to China.
The Medical Superintendent is Dr Tracey Duncan, who was in June 2018 reassigned from the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation , where she functioned as a medical practitioner.
Her duties entail the day-to-day running of the premier hospital of the region, overseeing the doctors, the pharmaceutical services, x-ray unit and the laboratory and dealing with issues that arise in those departments and other administrative matters.
With 29 years of experience working as a nurse and midwife and having delivered over 250 babies, acting Senior Departmental Sister and the matron’s assistant, Sis Muriel Moore, said she has no regrets joining the nursing profession.
She had worked at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and also served at Suddie Hospital in Region Two( Pomeroon-Supenaam).