US$4.1M to upgrade five hospitals

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By Devina Samaroo

An estimated US$4.1 million is earmarked under a United Kingdom (UK) – funded initiative to retrofit five local hospitals to withstand disasters and to make them more energy efficient.

The health institutions identified for retrofitting are the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, the Mabaruma Regional Hospital, the Leonora Cottage Hospital, the Lethem Regional Hospital and the Paramaktoi Hospital.

Guyana is one of seven Caribbean countries that were selected by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) under its Smart Healthcare Facilities Project which is expected to be completed by May 2020.

British High Commissioner Greg Quinn told reporters at a press conference today that the aim is to make hospitals structurally stronger so they can remain accessible and fully functioning even after a natural disaster.

As an example, Quinn recalled the recent West Demerara floods which resulted in the temporary closure of the Leonora Regional Hospital – one of the main health institutions in the district – and its closure affected hundreds.

Rawle Jordan, an international PAHO consultant, explained that “in the event of, let’s say, a hurricane, under no circumstances any of your roofing or rafters should go.”

“So some amount of technical joints or pinning of your roofs, those are things that need to be implemented,” Jordan said.

Rawle Jordan

The idea is to also make the hospitals more energy efficient and Dr William Adu Krow – who is the PAHO Country Representative, said this could result in savings of two million dollars over 20 years.

One of the ideas is to make the hospitals in the hinterland more dependent on solar energy – which is projected to dramatically reduce electricity expenses.

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence said the savings will be reinvested in the hospitals.

Four local companies have already been shortlisted for the project design and training will be provided to regional officials so they will be able to work with the new systems.

Dr Adu Krow said the five hospitals were selected after an assessment of 71 health institutions in the country.

More than 80% of the hospitals assessed were in need of urgent intervention as their current safety levels were inadequate to protect the life of patients and hospital staff during and after a natural disaster.

The Public Health Minister explained that the country’s two major hospitals – the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the West Demerara Regional Hospital – will not benefit from funding under this project.

She said this is because GPHC already receives a subvention from the Government and the West Dem Hospital will undergo upgrades from financing from the Indian Exim Bank.

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