Retrofitting begins to stop flooding at Leonora hospital, increase services

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Rehabilitation works at the Leonora Diagnostic Hospital on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD) has commenced to make it into a facility which can withstand flooding and other natural disasters.

“…when we invest in these facilities, we are bringing healthcare to the people, we are reaching the unreached. It helps us to reduce the cost to access healthcare and it makes healthcare truly…a universal right,” President Irfaan Ali said on Thursday afternoon in his address to those gathered outside the facility to mark the commencement of upgrade works at the hospital.

The health facility is located just a few feet from the sea defence wall on the West Coast of Demerara, making it susceptible to flooding as a result of frequent overtopping from the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2017, almost the entire single-flat hospital was shut down due to flooding and all services were moved to the Mildred Cox Young Health Centre at Den Amstel; this incident led to an assessment of the facility and a decision to retrofit it into a ‘SMART’ hospital.

President Ali, who resides a short distance away from the hospital, said: “many times people have to make a decision on whether to take $1,000 to pay transportation cost to go to Georgetown Hospital or take the $1,000 and buy food for their children.”

Work ongoing at the Leonora Diagnostic Hospital (Photo: News Room / November 26, 2020)

To avoid this, he noted that “all the hospitals will see upgrade and improvement within the next few years,” to decentralise healthcare within the regions.

The other hospitals to be improved are the Diamond Diagnostic Centre where rehabilitation works are almost complete; the Lethem Hospital in Region Nine; Paramakatoi in Region Eight and Mabaruma in Region One.

The completion of the Leonora facility is set for November 22, 2021.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony disclosed that over 80 other health facilities were assessed for upgrades. He assured that all of the improved facilities will offer more services to nearby communities as the government is working to rid the local health sector of drug shortages.

“We want to expand services, and with the existing services that we have, to ensure that we are getting better quality of services,” Dr Anthony said.

As part of the programme, the facilities will be equipped with sound roof and foundation, improved security and signage, secured equipment and fuel storage, backup power, disability access, good drainage, reduced downtime, reduced operating cost, improved emergency care, pollution reduction and several other upgrades.

President Irfaan Ali tours the medical facility (Photo: Office of the President/November 26, 2020)

The project is being funded by the United Kingdom through a $43M Euros programme in the Caribbean.

Acting British High Commissioner to Guyana, Ray Davidson in his remarks noted that while the venture is a costly one, “including the greening measures, such an investment in renewable energy and implementing energy efficiency measures actually help reduce operational costs and makes it cost-effective as well as providing efficiency of services.”

He added: “of course the potential to save lives or reduce those lost is immeasurable and always good value for money.”

PAHO/WHO is providing technical assistance to complete the project.

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