THE project to convert five local hospitals into ‘SMART’ facilities is moving rapidly apace, and according to Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, the project will wrap up by the end of the year.
This means that within the next few months, Guyana will boast of hospitals that are climate-resilient and energy efficient.
Already, the Diamond Diagnostic Centre has been completed and recommissioned. Dr. Anthony said that once all goes as planned, the completion and full reopening of the Leonora Hospital, West Coast Demerara is likely for July.
The minister told the Guyana Chronicle that the Region Three, (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) project was being undertaken by Correia and Correia Limited, and that works were being done as part of a one-year timeline, once the contract was inked in August last year.
The ‘SMART Hospital’ concept refers to a facility that is both safe and ‘green’. The initiative comes under an $835M (US$4.175 million) project, funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID).
Once the Leonora Hospital is completed, Dr. Anthony said that works will also begin to wrap up at the Mabaruma hospital in Region One (Barima-Waini), followed by the Lethem Regional Hospital in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), and the Paramakatoi Health Centre in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni).
Minister Anthony told this newspaper that so far, the Diamond Hospital has been working well, and that it has even increased its capacity by being a public location to conduct PCR testing for the novel coronavirus.
The health facility, which serves the heavily populated East Bank Demerara corridor, was reopened to full operations in April 2o21.
With the upgrades, the Diamond Hospital now boasts of the requisite infrastructure to guard against flooding, reduce reliance on the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Corporation by resorting to renewable energy, and enabling the use of rainwater for its day-to-day functions.
“This hospital would be manned by 58 nurses and we have 20 doctors,” Dr. Anthony had said.
He said that the upgrading of hospitals mitigates the need for persons to rely on the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation for key services such as surgeries and x-rays, etc.
Dr. Anthony said that the conversions of these local hospitals are directly linked to the government’s fight against climate change, having recognised the detrimental impact that poor environmental practices have on human health.
Dr. Anthony had previously noted that within the next few years, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) will be looking to convert all the health facilities in Guyana. “We have already done the assessment of 89 other health facilities,” the minister posited.
NOTABLE RISE IN GLOBAL TEMPERATURES
In explaining the importance of the SMART hospital project, Dr. Anthony made specific reference to reports released by the United Nations’ Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), particularly as it relates to the notable rise in global temperatures.
“For the last hundred years, the earth’s temperature has increased by 0.75 degrees Celsius and every decade since 1850, we are living in warmer climate,” the minister said, pointing to the consequences of Guyana’s infamous 2005 floods.
In a series of articles published in January, the Guyana Chronicle examined a number of adverse effects that climate change is likely to have on local sectors, including sea defence, health and food production, all due to the projected rise in sea levels.
As a matter of fact, the IPCC predicts that “global warming will worsen human health conditions, especially in tropical regions.” In countries such as Guyana, an increase in temperature indicates an increase in mosquito populations, thereby escalating the risk of a variety of insect-borne infections.
“… and those mosquitos would bring with them, a number of different types of diseases such as dengue and malaria, and chikungunya, and so forth,” Dr. Anthony previously said in an invited comment.
In addition to vector-borne and water-borne diseases, global warming also paves the way for increased heat waves, which would result in prolonged periods of abnormally high temperatures that can have serious health effects on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and the sick.
“This was already seen during the 2003 heat wave in Europe, which claimed approximately 35,000 lives,” a recent UN Climate Change report indicated.
Reflecting on the many environmental tragedies that occurred in 2020, Guyanese Scientist, Dr. Michelle Kalamandeen had told the Guyana Chronicle that climate change has inevitably created the deadly monster that is the novel coronavirus. She explained that three out of every four new infectious diseases in people come from animals.
“More specifically, from our wildlife and from the livestock we keep in ever-increasing numbers… if an area becomes too hot or too cold for certain wildlife, they will migrate to new places, where they interact with other animals that they have never encountered before,” Dr. Kalamandeen had explained.
She reasoned that this usually results in humans increasingly sharing the same spaces and vying for the same food as various species of organisms, thereby increasing the risk of transmission of diseases from animals to humans.
The Health Minister had previously indicated also that his ministry was currently working to craft a comprehensive 10-year strategic plan which seeks to examine a plethora of ways that the ministry can respond to climate change.
“…and our preparedness in terms of health response to things like pandemics and flooding and so forth…we want to ensure that we build that capacity to respond to [the] effects of climate change, and try to make our systems more climate-resilient,” Dr Anthony asserted.