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BUDGET DEBATE: Macro focus neglecting the people – Dr. Cummings

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 20:59 by GxMedia

APNU parliamentarian Dr. Karen Cummings

The APNU’s newest parliamentarian Dr. Karen Cummings says the government’s claims of macro growth are not being felt at the level of the ordinary man.

She was at the time making her maiden presentation before the National Assembly as the 2014 budget debate continued on Thursday. Dr. Cummings became an MP following the resignation due to ill health of the now deceased APNU member Deborah Backer back in February.

“Mr. Speaker this minority Government brags a GDP expanding 5.2 percent real growth compared to a global growth of 3.6 percent;. an inflation rate of 0.9 percent, and a possible projected growth of 5.6 percent for 2014 ; a government that boasts of surpluses and savings but leaves the masses and working poor  Mr. Speaker, in a state of dispossession  and the jobless poor in bewilderment  and hopelessness.

“Mr. Speaker, development is a many sided process, therefore it does not only involve an increase in material wealth but must include the general welfare of the citizenry,” Dr. Cummings stated.

According to the medical doctor, the government was clueless to the fact that the wealth of a nation was rooted in the health and wellbeing of its people and she declared that the healthcare system was in need of rescue and recovery.

She then set out a number of concerns and possible solutions in what has so far been one of the better presentations of the budget debate after which Speaker Raphael Trotman was moved to say “a star is born.

Firstly Dr. Cummings stated that there was no mention in the budget of improving the socio-economic status of the poorly paid healthcare providers even as they were finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“Mr. Speaker, only a week ago approximately 19 nurses did not report for duty at the GPHC owing to the unavailability of money as they struggle to pay utility, transportation, food and rent bills with the meagre salaries they earn. 

Mr. Speaker what kind of family would allow its members to go hungry? And what prevents the Government which claims to be caring, from doing something about it? In our context, Mr. Speaker monetary motivation is still the preferred manner of encouragement for the healthcare workers, who provide preventive, curative, promotional or rehabilitative health care services in a systematic way to individuals, families or communities.”

According to Dr. Cummings, health care workers were still waiting for a 10 percent after tax salary increase which had been budgeted a year ago. She recommended that the government provide significant improvement of benefits to the workers to enhance retention and guarantee a higher level of commitment and efficiency.

On what she said was the growing incidence of infant and maternal mortality the APNU MP recommended that in addition to expanding the facilities in the hinterland areas the system should also be decentralized with staff trained and equipped to fully handle whatever situation may arise.

And on the contentious issue of the construction of a specialty hospital Dr. Cummings said it would be better to develop the system already in place.

“The wise thing would be to develop the already existing tertiary level institution, the GPHC, which will result in less cost for the tax payers. The specialist programmes done at the Georgetown Hospital, in collaboration with the University of Guyana, the Universities of Vander Belt and Ohio in the USA and the Columbia University in Canada have begun to train specialists in areas of Orthopedics, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Paediatrics and in Obstetrics and Gynaecology to name a few, should be sustained.”

The MP added that the remuneration package of such doctors should be attractive with specialist salaries.

“Mr. Speaker we recommend that primary care service should be complemented by different levels of specialized care whether it is ambulatory or inpatient but the focus should be at this time on improving the primary care system,” she said.

The APNU member also touched recommended that proper data be collated on suicide so that a matrix could be developed to address the causes and prevention. She also called for guidance programmes in schools to address child sexual abuse; properly equipped ambulances in the hinterland areas; and that the drug procurement process be strengthened to ensure value for dollar is received.

“The Budget 2014, Mr. Speaker, disregards and has neglected the working poor and vulnerable.  It attempts to focus on numbers, rather than trying to have a direct impact on the quality of service being rendered. Mr. Speaker, the spending projected does not reflect value for money,” she said.

According to Dr. Cummings, the budget was filled with “ironies and eye water.”