– As Guyana, Mount Sinai, HESS enter monumental partnership
THE Government of Guyana, on Friday, signed a monumental contract with Mount Sinai Health System, an internationally-recognised healthcare provider, and Hess Corporation that will lift the country’s health services to world-class status, effectively overhauling the entire health system.
The contract was signed at State House, Main Street, the President’s official residence, with several Cabinet Members, government technical officers, and members of the diplomatic corps present.
According to President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, the signing stems from government’s mandate to position Guyana as a destination of choice for healthcare services globally and to further transform healthcare services in both the public and private sectors locally.
Giving some background regarding how the process came about, the Head of State said transforming Guyana’s health system was the target. With that vision in mind, Dr Ali said the best possible allies were contacted with Mount Sinai identified as a viable partner.
Subsequently, he noted that John Hess, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hess Corporations, a partner in Guyana’s Stabroek Block, was not only interested in opening the path for the partnership but was also interested in being part of the collaboration directly.
The investment by Hess into the partnership, according to the President, is close to US$32 million.
“I want to say that we are committed to ensuring that the success of this initiative brings all of Guyana together and that all of Guyana must and will have the best possible healthcare,” President Ali said.
Moreover, President Ali noted that this transformation is not only about Guyana but the larger goal is to position Guyana as a destination of choice for healthcare services globally. The private sector, the President maintained, will play an integral role in this.
Integrated Electronic Health System
The transformation of the sector, Dr. Ali highlighted, will require a number of things including innovative technology, even as he noted that Guyana may be lagging in that aspect. It is necessary to move towards improved technology within the sector, the President expressed adamantly.
With that, President Ali said that by the end of this programme, health authorities must be able to reach out to every secondary school across the country and register every child, compiling data for a baseline health assessment.
This baseline health assessment, he said, will further put those persons on an electronic patient management information system where their health will be tracked so as to provide the best healthcare coverage for them.
President Ali also said that from the baseline assessment, historical records, even from the parents of patients, will be documented and used to assist in identifying preventable diseases.
Moreover, the Head of State said there will be a complete system overhaul both at the public and private levels. Against this backdrop, he said that although some in the private sector will have privately-run operations, those operations will have to meet specially set standards.
To this end, he noted that while this overhaul will take place, it cannot be done if the regulations are not in place. As such, he continued, government is also working on all the regulations to support health.
With much enthusiasm, President Ali said he himself will be part of the committee working to advance these initiatives forward.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, during his address at the signing ceremony, said Guyana has long yearned to improve its healthcare system, and has strived to not only reduce morbidity and mortality, but also improve life expectancy.
This progress, he said, has been gradual. As the country progresses, however, Minister Anthony recognized that the population’s expectation about quality, affordability, and accessibility to healthcare will change.
“His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Irfaan Ali has been very cognisant of these expectations and has provided the resources for the health sector to ensure that we build a modern world-class health care system that can care for the needs of its citizens and those of the wider Caribbean,” the Minister said.
Against this backdrop, Dr. Anthony stated that the signing of the agreement among Hess Corporation, Mount Sinai Health Systems, and the Government of Guyana will advance the President’s vision for a transformed healthcare system locally.
To this end, the Health Minister noted that the Mount Sinai team has the expertise to assist in building the new world-class system that Guyana is looking to have.
“The signing of this agreement has unlocked not just Mount Sinai’s expertise, but also Mr. Hess’ philanthropy to help us to develop a world-class healthcare system here in Guyana,” the Health Minister said.
Additionally, he indicated that the agreement has three components of which the first will see Mount Sinai working closely with the Health Ministry to strengthen primary health care across the country including how diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers can be prevented.
With that, Dr. Anthony continued, they will also be working on the development of a health informatics system.
While working to shape the health informatics system, the Minister explained, the partners will also develop an electronic medical record system using this data to integrally plan healthcare strategies moving forward.
The Health Minister further said that the intention is for Guyanese to have smart cards which can be used at any health facility. Once a patient presents their electronic card, their records will be available anywhere on any one of the systems, the Health Minister noted.
The second component of the agreement will see change management being done at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). For this initiative, it was noted that teams will visit to partner directly with officials at the hospital in order to enact that system.
With this, the visiting team will be looking at the development of patient care relationships and improving turnaround times for medical procedures, including testing.
Additionally, the Health Minister noted that the third component will see the partners working along with the private sector in anticipation of a collaboration between the government and private sector here to develop a “Cardiovascular Centre for Excellence” for Guyana, which will be accessible to the wider Caribbean.
Further, he went on to say they will also look at developing an Oncology Centre for Excellence which will also be set up in similar vein.
Corporate Social Responsibility
For his part, Hess Corporation CEO, John Hess, called it an honour to be investing in Guyana and to have the opportunity to play a key role in the building aspects of the country.
While he noted that the country is blessed with many natural resources, he was adamant that the most important of these resources was Guyana’s human resource. Mr Hess, therefore, recognizes affordable and quality healthcare as central to Guyana’s development.
Hess stated that this investment serves as part of his company’s commitment to its corporate and social responsibility. As such, he indicated that this direct investment support to the communities in which the company works is a core value of the company.
It was then that he reflected on the moment when he received the call to join government’s vision for modernizing Guyana’s healthcare system. With the table set, Hess said he recognized Mount Sinai as the most strategic partner to undertake this development co-operation.
“The greatest gift in life is life; a longer life, healthier life, and more productive life. We are honoured to be part of the strategic partnership with the government and Mount Sinai to bring a brighter and healthier future for every Guyanese citizen and the country’s future generations,” Hess underscored.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jeremy Boal, Chief Clinical Officer at Mount Sinai, said this process began for Mount Sinai when Mr. Hess asked them to partner with Hess Corporation and the Government of Guyana.
Against this backdrop, Dr. Boal said that the three partners worked collectively to develop a broad and durable strategic partnership aimed at giving all Guyanese the best possible health care services.
As such, the Chief Clinical Officer stated that within the next three days, Mount Sinai officials will arrive in Guyana to engage their counterparts at the GPHC to improve and enhance their approach.
Soon after, he continued, other clinical experts will return to Guyana to continue the planning for the centres for excellence.
Just recently, CARICOM leaders agreed, at the regional summit, that there must be restructuring of regional healthcare services. This was highlighted in the official communiqué following the heads of government meeting in Paramaribo, Suriname which concluded recently.
The leaders agreed that as countries moved into post-pandemic recovery, it is an opportunity to restructure services and public health programmes across the Caribbean.
This move, which has been undertaken by the government to modernize Guyana’s health care services, shows that Guyana is leading the charge towards this official regional restructuring.