THE Ministry of Health is in the process of upgrading a number of health facilities to what is described as ‘smart hospitals.’ Four public health institutions have been identified to be upgraded to the status of smart hospitals. These are the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, the Lenora Diagnostic Centre, the Maburama Regional Hospital and the Paramakatoi Health Centre.
The projects are being done in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), which is providing financial support. A sum of US$4.175M has been allocated by the British Government to upgrade the restructuring processes.
The Smart Hospital initiative is not unique to Guyana and has already been implemented in several Caribbean countries and in Latin America. It has already demonstrated its cost-effectiveness and resilience, especially during times of natural disasters.
Natural disasters and extreme weather conditions can cause severe disruptions to health services and consequently endanger lives in times of natural disasters. Guyana, as the recent flood situation has demonstrated, is vulnerable to natural disasters, and as such, the Smart Hospital initiative is both timely and necessary.
These are indeed forward-looking initiatives on the part of the Ministry of Health, which, along with its several development partners, have been very proactive in terms of improving both access to health care to the Guyanese people and the quality of such care.
It is no secret that despite the several interventions by the ministry to upgrade the quality of health care delivery, much more remains to be done. Many who could afford will rather go to a private hospital to take care of their medical needs. There are all manner of allegations made by members of the public over long delays in getting treatment at public health institutions, especially at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). Some of the concerns raised have to do with the attitude of health professionals, which border on issues of professionalism and in some cases, work ethic.
There is perhaps a case for more work to be done in terms of customer care by health care professionals. This is not to take away from the vast number of hard-working and dedicated professionals, many of whom work beyond the normal call of duty. In fact, the government has allocated $400 million dollars payout for nurses in 2021 for exemplary services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in addition to an overall seven per cent increase to all public servants.
The fact is that the vast majority of Guyanese have little choice in terms of accessing health care and most end up at public health care facilities, especially the GPHC, which is the only referral hospital in the country. It is against this background that the PPP/C administration is seeking to modernise public health institutions all across the country. The Smart Hospital initiative is designed to improve hospital resilience and strengthen structural and operational aspects through greener technologies. This approach is consistent with the low-carbon development trajectory of the country. Apart from resilience and the utilisation of greener energy, it is also much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
The PPP/C administration has placed much emphasis on the upgrading of health institutions and facilities and in the training of doctors, nurses and other health professionals and billions of dollars are spent annually on the procurement of drugs and medical equipment. In fact, the health sector has received the largest budgetary allocation due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, but more fundamentally to reach a point in which Guyanese receive the best health care in the Caribbean.
The Smart Hospital Initiative is yet another step in that direction for which the PPP/C administration must be given credit. As mentioned earlier, this is indeed a forward-looking initiative and it is only a matter of time before more such institutions come on board.