Audit commences into COVID-19 sanatorium
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…Auditor General says payment vouchers for expenditures submitted

THE Audit Office of Guyana has confirmed receiving payment vouchers for the new National Sanatorium which is being constructed at the site of the former Ocean View Hotel.

Even as Guyana continues to navigate through a period of uncertainty and instability caused by a protracted electoral process and the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, said accountability and transparency must be maintained. And, it is to this end that the Audit Office commenced an audit of expenditures and transactions made by the government during the past four months. The audit includes corroborating expenditures made for the construction of the National Sanatorium. Some of the necessary documents have since been submitted by the Ministry of Public Health to Sharma’s office.
“I am going through the documents and I do not think we have all…some of the payment vouchers have been submitted and I am looking at them to see what we have and what we don’t,” said the auditor general, in an invited comment, on Tuesday.

Sharma said his office will continue to request all information from the Ministry of Public Health and other agencies, as the audit into the “COVID-19 expenditures” continues.

Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, had said that more than $1B will be spent on rehabilitating the Ocean View facility and transforming it to a national sanatorium. With the country already recording over 390 cases of the disease to date, the completion of the facility will be timely and will aid in the incubation, treatment and containment of persons, who are infected with COVID-19. Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, following a recent tour of the facility, had said he was pleased with the progress he has seen so far, and anticipates the facility’s completion “very soon.”

The idea to establish a special COVID-19 facility was put to government by the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) after a new study found that Guyana could have as many as 20,000 COVID-19 cases in a month.

The Ministry of Public Health, using the PAHO/WHO method, had initially projected 1,400 cases, but a recent study done by PAHO/WHO found that with every case, another 2.5 persons will be affected within five days if there is no partial lockdown, and if persons do not exercise effective social distancing.

“That 2.5, if I infect you, you infect 2.5 others and they infect another 2.5. Within a month we will get over 20,000; it’s a simple model but it makes a lot of sense,” said PAHO/WHO Resident Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, in a previous News Room report.

And should this happen, Dr. Adu-Krow said, five per cent or 1000 of those infected would need intensive care, and Guyana simply does not have the capacity for this.
“With this new facility, we are looking to have centralised care…for now, the services offered will be based on the coronavirus, but as we get over the pandemic and move into other phases, we will probably modify the facility so we can handle any infectious disease that may arise.

“But, right now the plan is to handle three categories of persons: those who are infected and are suffering from signs and symptoms of the disease; those who are infected but remain asymptomatic; and those in quarantine, awaiting results,” said Dr. Persaud.

The facility will be up-to-standard with international regulations and criteria, especially standards regarding the control of infectious diseases.
Even in the construction phase, Dr. Persaud said persons have been working according to prescribed international guidelines and standards, all of which are aimed at protecting persons who utilise the facility.

“From what I’ve seen, progress of the work has been commendable because they completely transformed the facility to where it is now…the quality of work is good so far,” said the CMO.

There were a few modifications along the way, but Dr. Persaud said he was content and is confident that the facility will deliver the intended services efficiently. The facility has an operating room, isolation rooms, laundry rooms, kitchen and other necessary elements.

The CMO hinted that the well-equipped facility is here to stay, even after COVID-19 would have faded. And, it will be modified as time goes by, to cater for other infectious diseases.

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