Poor health care in Guyana
New complaints have surfaced about conditions at the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) and staffers are warning that the situation has affected patient care, including emergency services.
In addition to concerns about the dangers posed by the physical infrastructure at some facilities, including the Emergency Room (ER), the lack of drugs and the unavailability of patient’ records, senior staff at the hospital have also alleged that there is a race problem and have accused administrator Bharrat Persaud of dragging his feet in addressing the issues.
When contacted yesterday, Persaud said that he was not authorised to speak to the media and directed queries about the facility to Region Three Regional Executive Officer Donald Gajraj. However, efforts to contact Gajraj were unsuccessful.
The new complaints about the state of the facility and its services come just over a year after similar reports by staff were highlighted in the media. In March last year, the Region Three administration said the reports about the conditions at the facility were misleading, while adding that it had been undergoing continuous rehabilitation as part of a three-year multi-million dollar project scheduled to end this year.
When Stabroek News visited the hospital yesterday, there were electrical wires hanging from the ceiling of the ER, the dispensary was not functional and the records department was closed off. Due to a malfunctioning air conditioning (AC) unit, the X-ray department had to be shut down since Monday and as a result patients have to do X-ray and ultrasound examinations at private institutions.
In addition to the hanging electrical wires, there are no screens to ensure the privacy of patients in the ER, who often complain. An official, who asked not to be identified for fear of victimisation, said the ER was left with no screens or proper facilities since last December, when renovation works were ongoing at the hospital. The works have ceased and there has been no word from management to the staff about when they would be completed. “The ER is a dancehall because there is no privacy in there,” said the official. She said that the situation is especially distressing for female patients. “When the females come with severe abdominal pains or any other issues affecting them… the doctor is required to examine them in front of everyone. It is shameful. We need the ER to have screens, proper fans and adequate staffing to deliver proper care,” the official argued. “…Patients are coming and they are not comfortable and they all want to be comfortable,” she added.
At the dispensary unit, the staff is cramped in a room that is no bigger than 10ft x 10ft, while patients complained that the medication prescribed by doctors was not readily available and they had to spend money to purchase them elsewhere. “What’s the use we ah pay tax and we can’t get proper treatment? The government got fuh mek sure that the hospital got all the drugs fuh treat people, so old people like me nah got fuh spend me lil money,” an elderly patient told this newspaper.
At the records department, doctors complained about the unavailability of the medical records needed to trace patients’ medical histories to aid treatment. The situation was blamed on the ceased renovation in that department. “We have to ask the patients about their past medical conditions because when they come, they have new cards and no history so we have to start from scratch and it is distressing,” a doctor said.
Crucial testing such as diabetes and cholesterol cannot be done at the hospital’s laboratory since the technicians there claim that there is no reagent to conduct them. Another official added that with the non-functioning AC forcing the temporary closure of the X-ray department, the hospital has been referring patients to Georgetown Public Hospital, where they sometimes still do not get X-rays done, while others resort to private institutions. “We also have some patients on fasting and then they have to wait long before they are tended to and sometimes they get blackout and more sick because of our lack of equipment,” the official said, adding that facilities for staff are also a major concern. Broken chairs and creaky desks to execute their duties were pointed out to this newspaper. According to the official, all the major problems at the hospital stem from its management’s inability to address them. As
A section of loose wiring in the dispensary at the West Demerara Hospital
a result of this situation, she said standards at the hospital are on the decline while senior staffers are forced to resign—a situation that was also attributed to racism. “There are also a lot of vacant positions but only persons of certain ethnic background are getting employed, while others are refused,” she contended.