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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Budget Speech - Dr Norton—2014

Hits: 2802 | Published Date: 04 Sep, 2014
| Speech delivered at: 71st Sitting - Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon Dr. George Norton, MP

Dr. Norton: May it please you, Mr. Speaker. I rise to make my contribution to this, the third Budget debate of the Tenth Parliament of Guyana. Before I move into my presentation, let me say, probably disappointing some of my Colleagues in this House, that I am here to debate the 2014 Budget and I will not flatter with a reply to the caustic comments made by the Hon. Bibi Shadick about me and my professionalism, except to say that with all sincerity, I would like to publicly express my sincerest sympathy to her and the rest of her family on the passing of her brother, “my dear friend” as she did say, and to say that Bill, as I know him, would always remain my dear friend.
I am one of the Members of Parliament of APNU who shadows the health sector and would comment on some of the performance of this sector over the past years. I would just like to remind all of us in this House, especially those in highest offices of the health sector, that the job we are being paid to do would never be as easy as our appointments to the job. The job comes with criticisms; it comes with regular scrutiny and it comes with a mandate to serve the people of this country with integrity, fairness and accountability.
The expenditure of the health sector was increased from 5.8 % of the national budget in 2000 to 8.9 % in 2013. Over the first two years of this Tenth Parliament, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has invested a total of more than $36.2 billion in the health sector with the promise, of course, that all Guyanese would have readily access to a decent public health care system, a promise that has left much to be desired. This is so because, for some reason or the other, the powers that be in the health sector over the years seem incapable of getting it right. This is in spite of those large sums of money allocated to this sector.
In 2012, of the $17 billion expended in the health sector, $335 million was spent in training public health personnel. Likewise, in 2013, of the $19.7 billion expended in the health sector, $369 million was budgeted for human resource development, including the training of one of the most important pillars of any health care system, namely the nursing sector. Here we have some serious problems.
Nurses training in Guyana has been described as a ‘severe chronic disease’, while public concerns are voiced about mismanagement, mistreatment and mistakes by nurses in the different health institutions throughout the length and breadth of Guyana. The results of the recent nurses’ examination in the three nursing schools of the Ministry of Health are evidence of serious deficiencies in their training. Of the 255 students who entered the three-year professional nursing programme in 2010, only 120 wrote the final exam and, of those, only 19 were successful. There was a total failure at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing. Yes, Mr. Speaker, no one was successful. Stated more concisely, it can be said that less than 10% of the original intake completed the programme successfully. This catastrophic phenomenon can best be described as a waste of scarce resources.
The problems cited for the failures, among others, were pointed out in my budget presentation in 2012, but no one was listening. Neither was anyone listening when it was mentioned by senior officials of the Guyana Nurses Association that the student nurses were best described as ‘weapons of mass destructions’ in the making. The problems of the training of nurses are largely the same today as they were then. I would now advise the Government of how this problem can be solved so that our nursing school can once again be internationally accredited and we will once again produce professional nurses of the highest quality as in the past for health institutions both locally and overseas. Just to mention a few:
• The number of nurses per cohort must be reduced in order to make it manageable for training purposes. There should never be overcrowding in the class rooms. At times there were as much as 255 students in one cohort.
• Every effort must be made to achieve an acceptable student to tutor ratio by having a full quota of full-time tutors. There must never be understaffing. The efforts boasted to get doctors to come on board seem not to be of any major success.
• There must be modern audio-visual aids and relevant and current text books. We should have a public address system, access to the internet and personal computers and all necessary and adequate teaching materials. The nursing schools must be made internet hot spots.
• We must make certain that infrastructures are adequate, correcting the unhygienic and insufficient numbers of sanitary facilities at the Georgetown Nursing School where males and females have to jostle each other for the use of the same sanitary facilities.
• We must put in place arrangement for counselling and access to a social welfare department to curb indiscipline such as abusive and immature behaviour, absenteeism, unpunctuality and, most serious of all, substance abuse. Tutors must be allowed to discipline students so that this is not only done at the level of the Ministry of Health.
• The School of Nursing personnel should have some input in the selection of students for the programme as some of these students are found by the tutors to be totally unsuitable for training to become nurses. In other words, the Nursing school personnel must be allowed to be more involved in the decision making process with regards to the functioning of the nursing school.
• The stipend of the students must be of practical value. The student nurses are paid $500 a day while some have a transportation cost of $1,100 a day for those who live as far as Parika.
Unless the aim of nurses training is to achieve quality and not quantity, as it appears to be, especially of recent, nursing will never be up to acceptable standard and there will continue to be newspaper headlines such as “Man dies under hospital bed, nurses found him later”, and this is not meant to be nurse bashing.
In the Budget of 2014, referred to as A better Guyana for all Guyanese, $21.5 billion has been allocated to the health sector and $428 million is allotted to strengthen the human capital of the health sector. We, on this side of the House, insist that the spending of this country’s taxpayers’ money must be efficient enough to change for the better the quality of nurses training in Guyana.
The Guyanese public is waiting with baited breath to see if the $12.912 million of the $2.4 billion allocated from this Budget for the construction and upgrade of health care facility will be used to complete the $27.149 million extension at the Georgetown Nursing School that has been ongoing since 2011. This is so since the $1 billion in 2012 and the $1.2 billion in 2013 that were expended from the budget to construct and upgrade health infrastructure seem not to be sufficient to complete that construction.
In the Budget of 2012, the upgrading of the National Psychiatric Hospital was also mentioned and here again in this year’s Budget, from this $2.4 billion, moneys are also budgeted for construction at the National Psychiatric Hospital. Here again, we seem not to be getting it right at the National Psychiatric Hospital. Less than a month ago, I visited the aforementioned hospital and, in order for the Ministry of Health to get it right, the following must be done:
• The compound that is covered in bushes with tall grasses actually growing into some of the wards must be cleaned immediately.
• The broken roads with pot holes in the compound between the wards must be fixed and paved.
• There is dire need for adequate lighting in the wards and in the compound.
• The playing field that has become a pasture needs to be rehabilitated.
• There must be adequate water supply and not only from 9.00 a.m., as is happening now, and it must be available every day.
• The laundry facility with the broken machine must be fixed.
• Adequate means for occupational therapy must be put in place; at present, this is non-existent.
• I was told that nurses are given ‘begging sheets’ to seek donations on the streets of New Amsterdam to help out in the running of the Hospital for groceries are limited; 10 rolls of toilet paper for 30 patients for two weeks; no wash room cleaners; one linen to a bed and sometimes none. These are only examples. This must be ceased forthwith and suitable arrangements must be put in place for the proper administration of this important institution of this country.
The Minister of Finance, the Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh, at 4.84 of his Budget Presentation said:
“Recognising the growing incidence of personal and domestic violence, the provision of services in mental health will focus on the prevention and management of suicidal behaviours.”
It is time that this Government must recognise that suicide is a serious public health issue here in Guyana. The Government should stop being complacent towards suicide and demonstrate a more dynamic leadership in curbing suicides in this country. According to Ms. Supriya Bodden of the Guyana Foundation, there is a mental health crisis in Guyana that is largely being ignored by the PPP/C Government. The move by the Indian Arrival Committee to become involved in this crisis area is most welcomed for Guyana is ranked fourth in suicides per capita worldwide and has the highest rate among South American and Caribbean countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
This country has recorded 111 suicides in 2013, with the highest rate coming from Region 6. There are already 23 suicides for this year 2014. The New Amsterdam Hospital, Region 6 alone, recorded 114 cases of attempted suicides and, of those, 10 died, while the Suddie Hospital in Region 2 shows that 117 persons attempted suicide, with 16 dying. In Region 4, two weeks ago, a twenty-one year old mother of two from Mahaica attempted suicide after poisoning her two young children to death. Georgetown is having its fair share as well with the latest being the 10-year old boy from the Greater Georgetown area, Sophia, who, with his belt on Sunday last, became an addition to the number of attempted suicides. Yesterday, a 13-year old male, the most recent, was successful in taking his life by hanging, at Hope West, Enmore. There were even recent cases of attempted suicides among the medical fraternity. In Guyana, on an average, there are over 200 suicides annually and this is certainly on the increase. Studies by the American University of Research here in Guyana have shown that the majority of those committing suicides were young males between the ages of 12 and 20 years. They were likely to be poorly educated and employed in a low-income occupation. This is exactly that which makes this crisis so much more serious.
The revised Mental Health Act is long overdue for the existing one is terribly outdated. Besides, it does not permit the leverage to effectively tackle certain situations involving persons who manifest mental instability. We call upon the Government to table the revision of this Act in this House as early as possible. That is one of the Government’s Bills we of the APNU will readily support, with the necessary amendments.
The National Committee for Suicide Prevention established six years ago was a total failure for it failed to curb this epidemic of suicide here in Guyana and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy was nothing but a still born.
There must be, in adequate numbers, post-graduate training in Psychiatry and in Psychology; so far, we have only seen that of psychology in the daily media to Indonesia. We call on the Government to let part of that $428 million allotted for specialised training be used to train more psychiatric nurses that are in short supply and are non-existent altogether at the different health institutions. At the National Psychiatric Hospital, there are only two staff nurses; the other members of the staff are nursing aids and patient care assistants.
Speaking of training, ever since I began to deal with matters concerning health, I do always point out the need to have postgraduate training in the different specialties in human medicine. One such field is that of Pathology. I am happy to hear the Hon Dr. Jennifer Westford saying that there is some postgraduate training in Pathology, among other specialties, for currently Guyana has two very senior pathologists, one in Georgetown and the other in Berbice. There is none in Essequibo and the residents are clamouring for one there. The oldest of these pathologists is over 63 years and the other is only slightly younger. One who has been around as a pathologist for nearly three decades is particularly overworked, for he has to travel all over Guyana to do his work. This doctor should be given a National Award of a very high order but, of course, with this Government, National Awards seem to be out of fashion or something of the past. I take this opportunity to call on the Government to do all that is necessary in the shortest possible time to get more general practitioners to do postgraduate training, in sufficient numbers, in the different fields of human medicine. We also appeal to the authorities for these postgraduate awards to be made public as much as possible by placing the advertisements or the notices in widely read and circulated newspapers.
Last year, $19.7 billion was allocated to the health sector with the aim of achieving universal health coverage through the primary health care approach. The objective of the primary health care service is to ensure that the Guyanese public has access to equitable, accessible, technically competent and socially acceptable primary health care. Due to mismanagement by the PPP/C Administration, the primary health care system is failing, especially the women, children and the aged, particularly in the hinterland, rural districts and Amerindian communities. Actually, one of the strategies of the primary healthcare system is to provide quality health care to women and children, including family planning. It is now freely admitted that Guyana’s target to achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Numbers 4 and 5, which concern the reduction of both maternal and infant mortality rates, are unlikely to be met by 2015. This was so stated under the headline “Guyana battling to achieve elusive MDGs” by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative for Guyana and Suriname. We, in Guyana, are fortunate to have the recent launching of a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) by UNICEF. This survey can provide needful data to identify fatal trends in infant and maternal health in order to activate plans for our national primary health care system to adequately address them.
There are several problems that hindered the national primary health care system here in Guyana and every effort must be made to solve them. We can advise the Government on what has to be done in this regard. The most severe of all the problems is the administrative incapacity to the delivery of maternal health care. This has to be put in order. Eighteen maternal deaths were recorded last year and, according to the Chief Medical Officer, that figure is way too high and has caused even the Hon. Minister of Health to lament, and I quote, “We are somewhat alarmed, at the level of Cabinet, about the maternal mortality rate.” It is not only at the level of Cabinet, but all over the country. Even his Excellency, the President, if I may be allowed to mention him, on 30th December, 2013, expressed his concerns over the incidents of maternal deaths.
I will point out that every maternal death is one too many and the Hon. Minister must, if not fully, then in a large way, bear that responsibility. I beg to remind the Minister of a poem by one Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, since those deaths occurred under his watch.
Ah! Well-a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
Some one of us has an albatross around our neck.
The maternal mortality rate rose from 220 per 100,000 in 2002 to 280 per 100,000 in 2010. Guyana’s maternal mortality ratio is second only to that of Haiti for CARICOM countries. Government plans to spend $72.6 million of this year’s Budget to improve the quality of care given to maternal health patients. We are looking forward to the Hon. Minister getting it right this time. According to an official from the Ministry of Health, the health sector now has in place, under its family health manual, a recommendation that each pregnant woman be evaluated at least once during the initial phase of her pregnancy by a clinician and any high risk patient diagnosed would be evaluated by an obstetrician. He said, “So regardless of where they are around Guyana, we need to get then evaluated either by referring them or by us providing an obstetrician on a roving basis.” This, to the hinterland communities, to the Patamonas in Kurukubaru, might sound like an old pipe dream. The leadership of the Ministry of Health certainly may have never gone to the Pakaraimas regions of this country where there is not even a medic in most of the villages in Sub-Region 1 much less a clinician. The Regional Health Officer, who is a medical doctor, does not even visit that Sub-Region where, according to the Medic at Paramakatoi, there is a very high birth rate. There is not even a machine to measure the haemoglobin count of those pregnant mothers much less to be evaluated by an obstetrician.
The Ministry seems incapable of responding promptly to the prevention of preventable diseases. Neonatal mortality remains still a critical issue since too many children still die from preventable causes within the first month of life. Infant mortality rate is stagnant at 29 per 1,000 for over a decade. There were 144 deaths over a 12-year period from 2001 to 2012 due to Acute Gastroenteritis/Acute Diarrheal Disease with 61 % being children under five years of age.
Another source of serious problems of the primary healthcare system is the Administration’s clumsy treatment of its nurses. Nurses at the Linden Hospital Complex, Region 10, and the West Demerara Regional Hospital, Region 3, threatened to strike in order to call attention to the non-payment of allowances and to the security lapses at the hospital. Nurses are made to work in adverse conditions at the various health facilities with low salaries, with no incentives and hardly any benefits. Their meal allowance is the same as it was even before the PPP/C came to office with a uniform allowance for the year which can only buy a proper pair of shoes. There is inadequate security for nurses at institutions like the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. It is impossible for the nurses to save and become rich even if they are living with their parents and are without children as how one goodly Minister accounted for the remarkable accumulation of wealth by a notorious someone here in Guyana.
Nurses must be considered for duty free concessions for motor vehicles and special arrangements for adequate housing must be put in place for them, among other benefits, including appropriate remuneration, and they must become entitled to adequate risk benefits. This will certainly contribute, in a very large way, to the lowering of their high rate of attrition. If the nurses are paid peanuts, the nurses will give you a corresponding quality of work. The nurse/patient ratio dropped from 10.5 per 10,000 in 2002 to 5.3 per 10,000 in 2012, meaning there are now fewer nurses per patient here in Guyana.
The dysfunction of the regional hospital and community health centres are contributing to the weakness of the primary healthcare system and all efforts must be made to correct the situation. This is catered for by the regional and clinical service with an objective to ensure that adequate and appropriate healthcare is available to all the peoples of Guyana regardless of their geographic location. The Skeldon Health Centre in Region No. 6 was abandoned a few months after it was commissioned, while the Minister of Health publicly commented about the general dissatisfaction among Berbicians about the health service being provided.
In Region No. 1, money was budgeted for the construction or the rehabilitation of the Port Kaituma District Hospital last year and again this year, the same is done. We shall be looking out next year to see if that will continue.
There is no community health worker in the Health Hut at Big Creek and this Hut is used as a guest house. Likewise, at Tasawini, the Health Hut is non-functional and the one at Five Star, is occupied but not by health personnel.
In Region No. 2 the Medic at Siriki is otherwise employed while using the boat and engine of the Ministry of Health for personal use and for purposes they were never intended for. The Ministry of Health seems to have no idea of the cost, distance and difficulty of the transportation and communication in the hinterland.
In Region No. 7, the staff at Imbaimadai Health Centre were instructed to send seriously injured patients to Kamarang, a journey of many hours by costly privately owned boats. The Medic in Paramakatoi in sub-region 1, Region No. 8, must seek permission from the Regional Health Officer in Mahdia, sub-region 2, to evacuate patients. The high cost of medical evacuation has been a consequence of the dysfunctional community health centres. In 2011, the Ministry of Health spent over $25 million to evacuate medical emergencies from the hinterland. In sub-region 8, sub-region 1, which is only accessible by air, there is no medical doctor and many villages are even without a medic. There are two Medics in all of sub-region 1. Kato has a so-called hospital with neither a doctor nor a medic. Paramakatoi only has a Medic in spite of the promise made by the Minister of Health to provide a doctor.
It was expected that at least one would have been provided since the 278 Cuba-trained medical doctors recently returned to Guyana. A Cuban doctor was sent there in 2009, but only for one month. The health centre at Mountain Foot which started construction in 2012 is probably not of any importance to the Ministry of Health for only the foundation and the pillars are completed and no work is ongoing. Only now after years of neglect and pleading with the Ministry of Health, the residents of Kamarang in Region No. 7 would benefit from the service of a doctor. The absence of a national ambulance service and a core of emergency medical technicians is a source of yet another problem affecting the primary healthcare system.
The entire country had only about 25 ambulances, seven more were added at the end of last January, but none was earmarked for the hinterland region except for a second-hand one that was sent to Kwakwani. The question must be asked why a second-hand ambulance and why to Kwakwani? Is this a case of George Orwell’s, Animal Farm, “where all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?” It seems that the Guyanese in the hinterland regions will have to be contended with ambulance and their patients, including pregnant mothers in labour, on an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) as is done at present if there is one.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member your time is up. You will need an extension of 15 minutes.
Lt. Col. (Ret'd) Harmon: Mr. Speaker, I ask that the Hon. Member be given an additional 15 minutes to continue his presentation.
Question put, and agreed to.
Dr. Norton: Villages like Bamboo Creek are without the services of an ATV. And all that is needed is a part to repair the broken one. They have that the Community Health Worker (CHW_ claims he can fix should he get the part.
At Bartica, there is neither ambulance nor ATV. Bartica is in both in need of a water ambulance as well as one for the road; for years the residents have been clamouring for this. One can only hope the $117 million allocated for the purchase of ambulances would make it possible for the hinterland regions to be blessed with at least one of the 12 to be bought.
Another sore point that is negatively affecting the primary healthcare system in Guyana is the non-availability of drugs in the public health system. Actually, one of the strategies of this system is to ensure adequate medical supplies. In January of this year, during an interview with Kaieteur News, a senior official from the Ministry of Health while acknowledging this state of affairs of drug shortage in the health sector, promised that the Ministry of Health would be tackling this shortage which he described as a daunting dilemma. He also deemed these shortages as Ad hoc and sporadic. He did confess that there are times when very essential medicines are not available. I do agree with him, however, when he said that the Ministry of Health is short-changing the Guyanese people when this condition exists. This is totally unacceptable and the effort now to correct same might be too little too late for the People’s progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). He typically blames it on so many different reasons like everybody else, but certainly not on the incompetence of the Ministry of Health.  I would like to remind that official of Shakespeare Julius Caesar’s Act 1 Part II that says:
“The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”
If, as he claims, the primary reason for shortages is linked to the tendering process then this process should be changed stat, forthwith. If there is no change, then it might be implied that the Ministry of Health is prepared to let the status quo remain as it is. As far back as 2005, the late Hon. Mr. Winston Murray was making repeated calls to the Government to purchase drugs and medical supplies in accordance with the procedures established by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) through open tendering and for the Government to stop the use of a Cabinet Order for the purchasing of pharmaceuticals. Of course, the PPP/C Government, true to form, ignored these calls and continued its abuse of this process by moving to the short listing of companies in a manner which did not follow the Tender Administration Procurement Act.
A particular company has become the Government’s main supplier since 2005 delivering 75% of the Government’s requirement. This is in spite of burning questions over the cost of drugs supplied and its untimely delivery. The banner headline of one of the daily independent newspapers screamed, “Government pays $18,000 for $2,000 pressure tablets.” What is apposite to note is that the company and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) have defended the purchases saying the prices were okay. The goodly Hon. Minister himself claimed that he conducted an investigation and he too was satisfied that the pricing was okay. Last year, new instructions were issued of how to shortlist the prequalified suppliers, but these guidelines will certainly give this company an unfair advantage over the rest of suppliers. We from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) are saying that this process should be ceased forthwith and revisited with all the potential suppliers, to create as much of a level playing field as possible.
This is particularly so as it was pointed out by the Auditor General’s Report over the years, which revealed a number of unsatisfactory features in respect of the performance of this company. For example, as of 30th September, 2013, medical supplies valued at $58.583 million had not been delivered to the Georgetown Public Hospital and the related bank guarantee had expired in April, 2013. Similarly, as regards to the Ministry of Health, medical supplies valued at $164.603 million had not been delivered and there were no bank guarantees in force to cover this amount. There were also outstanding deliveries in 2011 totalling $59.835 million while for 2008 there was no evidence of supplies valued at $79.262 million. Despite these shortcomings...
Mr. Speaker: One second, please, Dr. Norton.
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, I heard the Hon. Member quoting the year 2013 in the Auditor General’s Report. I would just like him to cite the page of which report because I know we have not had the 2013 Auditor General’s Report as yet.
Dr. Norton: Accepted; 2012 I meant.
Mr. Speaker: If you can the page, please.
Dr. Norton: I can provide it at a later time.
Mr. Speaker: Members of the press when you are entering or leaving the Chamber please allow the door to be pulled in softly rather than be banging behind you.
Proceed please Dr. Norton.
Dr. Norton: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Despite these shortcomings, no action was taken against this supplier for non-compliance with its contractual obligations. Between 2005 and 2012, the Government’s expenditure on drugs and medical supplies were more than tripled. Correspondingly, procurement from this organisation also tripled, increasing from $973 million to $3.033 billion. Why should the Ministry of Health persist with a supplier that is failing to comply with the recommended delivery schedule unless there is some hidden Agenda? This again reminds me this time of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 1, Scene 2, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.
The Ministry of Health would tender for medication and medical supplies for the entire year, but this supplier is permitted to deliver in tranches to cover the need for only three to six months in spite of the fact that the Ministry of Health now has adequate storage facilities. Is this supplier being allowed to do what he so chooses? It is definitely not in the public’s best interest to have one supplier having a virtual monopoly in the supply of drugs and medical supplies to the Government. We must correct this situation in order to stop this shortage of drugs. That can be so done if efforts are made by the Ministry of Health to improve the process of distribution of drugs and medical supplies to improve on the time of re-ordering and to have effective communication between the Regional Health Authorities and the Ministry of Health Bond at Diamond.
This must be so done since medications might be in stock at the central bond or the regional health bonds, but it is not getting to the peripheral levels. Every effort must be made by this Ministry to ensure that the management capabilities of the regional offices be sufficiently improved so that the delivery of these essential services will not be neglected. Besides, according to a Ministry of Health official, the Health Ministry is mandated to practice overstocking whereby a buffer stock is always available in the event that the demand exceeds expectation. Reports such as that of a six year old boy - an only child - being recently added to a list of two persons who died at the Leonora Cottage Hospital due to shortages of medical supplies, in this case oxygen and medication, must become a thing of the past. The Guyanese public deserves much better than that, especially in a region that someone spuriously claimed as the best run region’ in the country.
It is said that apart from the continuous and dangerous instances of shortages of drugs that have been affecting the entire country, a large percentage of the medications is expired so much so that according to an official of the Ministry OF health (MOH), the Health Ministry is working assiduously to minimise expiration of pharmaceuticals. The Auditor General’s Report stated that when a physical verification exercise was conducted at the GPHC offsite location and the Pharmacy Bond, there were 265 instances of expired drugs as at June, 2013, totalling $65M; and at a number of bonds and warehouses of the Ministry of Health 327 items of expired pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies were found with an approximate value of $208.090 million. This means that between Georgetown Hospital and the Ministry of Health more than $273 million in drugs had to be discarded last year. If I am allowed, Mr. Speaker, to quote the President on this issue of shortage and wastage of drugs, on 30th December at the Guyana International Conference Centre he said, and I quote:
”I do hope we are picking the right people for the right job.”
I want to agree with him.  He continued:
“We spend billions of dollars every year to buy drugs yet we are confronted with shortages of drugs at health facilities nationwide.”
The President could not be more correct. He continued:
“Millions of dollars of expired drugs are written off and dumped in large quantities; this is totally unacceptable.”
One cannot agree... APNU calls the President to urgently put in place an independent Commission of Enquiry into this fiasco of expired drugs with full investigative powers.
While medications might have been donated to this country, as was informed by the Minister of Health, it begs the imagination as to why medications that were expired since 2010 would only now be sent for storage to be destroyed later. There is need for an acceptable explanation for and the reason of dumping these medications in the compound of the Agricola Health Centre rather than following the accepted protocol as is established to be carried out by the Food and Drug Department.
Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]

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Designation: Minister of Social Cohesion
Profession: Ophthalmologist and Physician
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