Dr. Mahadeo: Mr. Speaker, speaking way down on the list of speakers for the budget debate has its advantages and its disadvantage. It is an advantage in that I can refute some fabrications and it is a disadvantage in that you would limit me to only 20 minutes so I might not be able to complete my prepared speech. I will crave your indulgence, Sir.
Mr. Speaker: The Speaker has to take responsibility for and get the blame for so many things, but I will take it. Let us see what we can do. We are making excellent time today. I have been actually giving Members more than their 15 or 20 minutes today. I will protect you. Go ahead, sir.
Dr. Mahadeo: Thank you, Sir. As I crave your indulgence, I will try my best to accomplish both, lest my constituents be dissatisfied.
I have to start with the speech made by the Hon. Dr. Cummings. I want to congratulate her on her maiden speech and I want to refer the Hon. Member to this document, which the Minister of Health was showing everyone yesterday, and to tell the Hon. Member that in this document there are topics such as situation assessment, strategic framework, strengthening the health system in Guyana through governance and leadership, human resource for health, health financing, strategic information, drugs and medical supplies, service delivery, addressing service priorities to improve health outcomes and planning for implementation. I think most of the issues she raised are answered in this document and I am sure the Hon. Minister of Health will make it available, like he promised, to every Member in this House.
As a practising doctor, I really disagree with the Hon. Member on the issue of not having a specialty hospital. A specialty hospital is a specialty hospital and it will do lots more than we can get the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to do.
I would also talk about the ambulances because Region 6, last year, acquired one of the ambulances that were bought and I refer the Hon. Member to check the ambulances that are right outside as part of the ambulance brigade and she will see that they are not just minibuses with stretchers inside.
As I stand to speak on this Budget, I must say that I am proud to be a People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) parliamentarian, sitting on this side of the House, supporting a budget that takes care of Guyanese from all walks of life and at all stages of life, directly or indirectly, for example, the road on the East Bank of Berbice. Of course, this road is long overdue, but the residents will see the worst part of the road being completed this year. Thanks, Hon. Minister Benn and Minister Ashni Singh.
Whilst we could boast of reduction in maternal mortality and infant mortality, I join with my Minister of Health in saying that any avoidable death is one too many, whether it is a suicide, maternal death or an avoidable accident. I cannot say that all our staff are perfect, nor can I say that all our equipment are brand new, but I can proudly say we are certainly making progress.
I live and work in Region 6 but I serve in several different regions from time to time. I, therefore, speak with some degree of authority when I say that this Budget looks at all stages of life, whether it is the baby in the womb of the mother, who benefits from the antenatal clinics, the basic nutrition programme, the care towards a safe delivery, including the care of the newborn, even if they need neonatal care in a neonatal intensive care unit (ICU)...
Please allow me to divert a little bit to say we are making steady progress. Five years ago, we did not have an intensive care unit in Berbice. Two years ago, we did not have a neonatal intensive care unit in Berbice. Now, we have both and the statistics, so far, are very impressive. To answer the Hon. Member Ramayya who said that there are ICUs with no equipment or non-functional equipment, he could not have been referring to Berbice. I would be one of the first persons to say that we do not have a perfect system but then, Mr. Speaker, tell me where in this world there is an absolutely perfect system.
I cannot sit and hear someone say that the staff in the ICU are not trained. I wonder if the Hon. Member knows how many persons pass through the hands of these trained teams, recuperated and were discharged to go home to their loved ones. It was 226 persons last year. Does the Hon. Member know that the three-bed ICU is equipped with functioning cardiac monitors, three ICU beds, suction machines, ECG machines, ventilators and defibrillators? The neonatal intensive care unit is equipped with incubators, cardiac monitors, infusion pumps, atom phototherapy, suction pumps, et cetera. Training was done and the neonatal intensive care unit’s equipment was donated by a distinguished Guyanese-born Canadian, Dr. Narsingh, and our thanks are expressed to him and his colleagues.
Hon. Member, I repeat the invitation I made last year to come and I will tell you the problems and how we in the Region are dealing with them or plan to deal with them. We make no secret of our problems. For us, every opinion matters and every suggestion is considered. That invitation is extended to all Members of this honourable House. I can give you a guided tour of our ICU and the neonatal intensive care unit. These two departments are manned by doctors and nurses who have had special training, thanks to the Ministry of Health and GPHC. These include Dr. Ramsakal, Dr. Algoo, Dr. Harrinarine, Dr. Sharma and nurses Janath Hussein, Patterson, Van Nooten, et cetera.
From the care of the newborn, I continue with the childhood years and young adulthood with the 16 free vaccines that are provided by our hardworking primary healthcare workers, led by senior health visitor Terry Davis, who, in Region 6, led the team and again had 100% coverage of the children available for vaccines. Sir, I daresay that Guyana has performed well nationally but, again, Region 6 leads the pack.
For youths, there are youth-friendly health centres all across the Region and also all across the country. There youths meet, discuss youth issues, have computer access and they can even ask for guidance from the medical staff.
Let me use this opportunity, also, to mention the contribution that the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport makes in this area. It has helped to improve the grounds and facilities to empower the youths. It has constructed a monument for the fallen sugar workers at Rose Hall, Canje. Please visit and pay tribute.
My Colleague Member of Parliament (MP) gave a hint of the grounds that benefitted from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. I want to share that grounds in Region 6 have been upgraded or are being fenced and, in some cases, being established, like in Courtland Village. I have the list here. This is always the dilemma: give all of the money to one or two grounds or share it and ask the community to take ownership. The latter was chosen and it works well in Berbice.
We are talking about facilities. There are facilities in Siparuta, Orealla, Scottsburg and New Amsterdam, Vrymens Erven, et cetera. By the first half of this year, these 32 facilities listed would benefit in Region 6 alone.
Let us move to the adult life and through middle age on to old age. Yes, Sir, we take care of our elderly. Here, I am not talking about pensions and subsidies of electricity and water alone, but healthcare. Four years ago, we started a three-pronged approach to care of the elderly in Region 6. The Berbice Regional Health Authority’s (BRHA’s) home based care programme, a programme that, as we have heard from the Hon. Joseph Hamilton, has now been implemented across the country.
Last year, we started the health and wellness army programme where volunteers are armed with eight months of training and provided with equipment to help manage the non-communicable diseases. The first batch graduated after eight months of training on 30th March, 2014 – fresh batch of Berbice health and wellness volunteers graduates. Each one of these volunteers will be given the responsibility to monitor and manage 15 chronic disease patients, mainly the elderly. As such, 210 persons are now benefitting as a result of this training. These volunteers report weekly to the hospital they are attached to. This will help us to keep tabs on patients and will encourage the patients to follow the rules of healthy living such as diet, exercise, medications, clinic visits, et cetera.
The third prong of the three-prong approach involves clinics dedicated to the elderly who are 65 years and older. Care of the elderly training was done by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a very close partner of ours, and by the Ministry of Health. These clinics are being held across the Region. In today’s Kaieteur News, there is an article captioned, “Region 6 gets roving elderly clinic.”
Here, I pause to mention our other partners in the care of the elderly programme. They are Food for the Poor, which has partnered with us since the beginning, and the Guyana Medical Relief. We have managed to provide bedpans, urinals, walkers, crutches, diapers and disposable sheets and medications to all of our bed-ridden patients who need it and now the elderly who need it.
To help in managing the care of the elderly, we have several other partners – the No. 69/70 Community Development Group, No. 69 Mandir, Hampshire Women’s Group, Canje Light House Mission, et cetera.
We do not believe that we can resolve all of these problems alone. We do take care of our elderly and we have communities willing to be a part of this vital task. I want, again, to invite you, Mr. Speaker, and all Members of this honourable House, especially those from Regions 5 and 6, to join with us at these clinics. We have things that you could also contribute to help in the care of the elderly by giving pep talks and talking about health issues.
At these clinics, we not only offer medical care but we look at social issues. The elderly also benefit from nail and hair care and things like foot massages.
I hope that not just because some Members of this honourable House are in the Opposition they do not want to see the good things that are happening in Berbice. Maybe they are not looking for anything good and have trained their eyes to see only bad and negative things. Do I need to refer you to the document that was shared out by the staff of the Parliament Office in which the Minister, Hon. Dr. Ramsaran, replied to questions I asked of him so that you could see some good being done? Refer to the answers on the question of the National Ophthalmology Hospital. Do I need to refer you to the fleet of ambulance that we now have? It was budgeted for last year and this year as well. Like I said, Region 6 got one. Outside, you can see some of them.
I also need to refer to the 2,323 visits by persons to the diabetic foot care clinic in the RHA, saving their limbs from amputation and improving the quality of life of these persons. I consulted and was advised that the words “lies” and “dishonesty” are unparliamentary so I will use instead the words “stranger to the truth”, if I may, or “truth bender”. I am glad I really did not get to speak yesterday so I have had some time to take a few deep breaths and quieten. I do not know why some Members massage the truth, bend the truth or are strangers to the truth. I asked the staff of the National Psychiatric Hospital to respond to some of the allegations of the Hon. Member Dr. Norton and these are some of the answers that I got, if I may be permitted to read it.
Problem: Grass is growing in the wards of the hospital.
Answer: “How can this be possible when the wards are all tiled and walk leading to each ward and the skirting of each ward is paved with concrete?”
Problem: There is water in the hospital only from 9.00 a.m. and none at night.
Answer: “Less than two years ago, a new pump was installed in the institution. This equipment is functioning well and serves the entire institution efficiently and effectively around the clock.”
Problem: The laundry department has no functioning machines.
Answer: “This department has two functioning washing machines.”
Problem: OT is non-existent.
Answer: “This is not so. This department is fully functional and can be attested to by the volume of work that is produced by patients on a regular basis. Not only craft is done, but patients attend therapy sessions five days per week. These sessions are geared to arouse their interest, courage, self-esteem and confidence to exercise mind and body in healthy activities, to overcome disability and to re-establish the capacity for industrial usefulness and social fulfilment.”
Here, I want to say that the Hon. Minister of Agriculture is going to help us to set up our shadehouse project in the National Psychiatric Hospital compound. He has made his promise; I am making it public.
Problem: Ten rolls of toilet paper given for 30 patients per month.
Answer: “Toilet paper and items such as toilet soap and other items are issued at least twice per month and there is an adequate quantity available so there is no need for limitations on such items.”
Problem: Nurses from the Hospital go to New Amsterdam with begging sheets for groceries.
Answer: “What nonsense is this? When did this ever happen? Who are the nurses? What did they ever have to beg for?”
Problem: No groceries for the Hospital.
Answer: “So how are these patients living? There is absolutely no shortage of any groceries.”
To add to this no groceries business, only February last, Ms. Adeena Cumberbatch celebrated her 95th birthday after living for more than 65 years in the National Psychiatric Hospital. Does Ms. Cumberbatch look undernourished in this photograph? I can pass it around.
The Hon. Member said, also, that there are two staff nurses at the National Psychiatric Hospital and the rest are nurse aids and Patient Care Assistants (PCAs) - not true, Mr. Speaker! The Matron (ag) sent me this note.
“At the hospital, there is one matron (ag), one ward sister, five staff nurses, seven nursing assistants, 28 nurse aids and 17 psychiatric patient care assistants.”
I advise Members to check out the BRHA’s Facebook page and be acquainted with some of our activities in words and in pictures.
We are hoping that by the middle of 2014 the acute care building will be operable to ease the load on the other sections of this institution. Thank you, Dr. Ramsaran.
In passing, I must mention our other programmes – home nutrition project where all health facilities are encouraged to have kitchen gardens to show mothers and mothers-to-be how to grow and prepare healthy foods. We had a brainstorming session on suicide prevention. We recognise that suicide is a problem. We had participation from several partners and we are inviting more, especially our MPs from Regions 5 and 6.
Our health facility days continue to give feedback to the people we serve. Our several management committees for separate health facilities continue to take ownership and do community monitoring and evaluation of our facilities and even contribute to the smooth running of our facilities.
This year, our 11th annual awards ceremony was the biggest and best. Ask Mr. Joseph Hamilton, the Hon. Member. We do appreciate the hard and dedicated work of the staff of the Berbice Regional Health Authority. Compliments of Fly Jamaica, the champion worker won a trip for two to one of three destinations of his choice – New York, Canada or Jamaica. Greenidge Refrigeration and Mr. Debedin continued to support. All our prizes, which included the Fly Jamaica trip, trip for two to Kaieteur Falls and trips for 10 couples to Mainstay Resort were sponsored by the business community, a true public/private partnership. They recognise our work, even if some in the Opposition do not.
Without the support of our Regional Democratic Council (RDC) and Regional Chairman, Mr. Armagon, and Regional Executive Officer (REO), Mr. Ramrattan, we would not have been the leader of healthcare delivery in Guyana. The BRHA has excellent support from the RDC. Thanks to our Regional Democratic Council.
Infrastructure works were done at all facilities in the Region, including Siparuta, Orealla, Barakara and all the coastland facilities.
I sat and listened and heard on the one hand that the Budget is a good budget and has something for everyone. This case was made out very well by Ministers Irfaan Ali, Westford, Frank Anthony, Gopaul, Ramsaran and Hon. Members Cornel Damon, Jafarally and Mr. Joseph Hamilton. They have all made the case and have done so well.
I hear, on the other hand, that the Budget is no good. The Ministry of Finance must be in a fantasy world. Where does the truth lie? One Hon. Member even said that the Budget has cataract. As a medical person, I want to advise the Hon. Member, however, that objects do not get cataract. Some eyes that look at the object can have cataract and distort their vision. We can welcome those who do not see too well and need cataract surgery and lens implant to come to Berbice to the National Ophthalmology Hospital and we will relieve them of that condition. Then they can see clearly what the Budget has for the people of Guyana. We are actually scouting for cataract patients since there is no backlog.
Concerning fantasy, the successive terms of the PPP/C are where fantasy meets reality. With this Budget, more fantasies will come closer to reality. I am sure the first person to say he would liked to have put up a bigger budget would be the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, so more moneys could have gone especially to the elderly. But he can only craft a budget on what available funds there are. No one can doubt that over the years there have been improvements in all spheres of life with an increase in the average lifespan being adequate proof.
Now we are well on our way to not only increasing lifespan and living to old age, but also to increase the quality of life with care of the elderly, diabetic school and health and wellness army, three programmes that make a difference in the lives of people, especially the elderly. I have to say that, to my mind, every facet of life has been touched by this Budget – from the baby in the womb with the maternal and child health programme and nutrition programme to the newborn through childhood getting their vaccines on time, neonatal care if the baby is compromised in any way, adolescent life and free schooling in every part of Guyana, whether on the coast or in the riverain and hinterland communities to post secondary education, whether it is university or technical institute, training college, nursing school, medex training, community health worker training, house lots and housing schemes everywhere.
We take care of the Guyanese people from conception in the womb to the elderly and centenarians. Sir, please allow me, again, to straighten out another issue. I was contacted by Dr. Samaroo, Regional Health Officer (RHO) of Region 8, who was shocked and disappointed by the utterances of the Hon. Member who said that the RHO never visited that sub-region in Region 8. Via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), this is what he sent:
“Region 8 is divided into two sub-districts. On the 1st March, 2013, I started working in Region 8. On the 20th March, myself, along with a nurse, together with the REO and his team, rode on ATVs from Mahdia to the North Pakaraimas. On that trip I did medical outreaches to all health centres and health posts in that sub-district. On returning, outreaches were done in all the health posts and sub-districts in Region 2. This trend continues.”
Sir, this is from the officer himself and I think it is a travesty to say that the RHO never visited sub-regions. Dr. Krishendatt Samaroo is a hardworking, dedicated, young doctor who took up the challenge to serve in the interior and he must be commended.
Mr. Speaker: You have five minutes, sir, within which to wrap up. Thank you.
Dr. Mahadeo: Just in aside, Region 9, with three sub-districts, has its full complement of doctors; each sub-district has doctors, young doctors who leave their homes and families being accustomed to a different lifestyle to go into the interior willingly to serve. Like Hon. Minister Ramsaran and Minister Westford said, we provide opportunities like post-graduate training. Sir, I have in my hand a list that the Hon. Minister made available to me which could be shared. I could call some names. Zelda Luke, Masters Degree in Emergency Medicine; Celestine Haynes, Post-Graduate Degree in Ophthalmology – she spent three years in Paraguay and just came back; Shivanie Samlall, Masters Degree in Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Balram Doodnauth, Masters Degree in Emergency Medicine, and it goes on and on. This list is available to anyone who wants to read it.
Sir, I have heard all the talks. I would like to welcome people to come to Berbice. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport recently helped us to erect a monument. We have quite a few monuments there and I would like to invite the entire House to visit and pay tribute. We have a monument for the slain sugar workers. We have a monument for the ballot box martyrs, those young men who scarified their lives fighting for free and fair elections and for the right for their votes to be counted. We have a monument for Dr. Cheddi Jagan - no dispute that he is father of the nation. We have a monument for Mrs. Janet Jagan. Please come and pay tribute. They are there. We need to pay homage to these people.
I have heard talks about elections and us not being ready. We are ready for any elections anytime. The groundwork is ongoing. We are ready! People say everyday that they are sorry for making the mistake that they made.
Demands have been made for me to reply to the weekly attacks that are made on me on television on BTV Channel 2. I am not going to do that. The people are saying that with every attack they understand what is going on. We are ready. We stand unanimously behind our President and unanimously behind our General Secretary, the Hon. Clement Rohee.
In closing, I have to say to the Hon. Member, Dr. A. K. Singh, emphasis on the letters A. K., you have shot straight and through with the ammunition you have available and you have nailed bull’s eye again in 2014. I am sure you would be the first to say that you would have loved to prepare a bigger budget to satisfy the wants of people across the country, but we recognise, and so will the people of Guyana, that the funds available are limited. Dr. Singh, Hon. Member, aided by your very able and hardworking staff, you did your usual excellent job of sharing the pie and helping to take fantasy closer to reality. Congratulations! I thank you. [Applause]