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US oil company-funded Guyana Health Initiative to benefit Caribbean

Last Updated on Friday, 8 July 2022, 11:44 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Health Initiative being signed by Mount Sinai’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Jeremy Boal; Chief Executive Officer of Hess Corporation, John Hess and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Malcolm Watkins.  Looking on are President Irfaan Ali and Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony. 

An almost US$32 million Guyana Health Initiative being funded by Hess Corporation is set to also benefit the rest of the Caribbean in the treatment of cancer and diseases of the heart and blood vessels, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony announced on Friday.

He explained that a Cardiovascular Centre for Excellence and an Oncology Centre would be established jointly with the private sector “for Guyana and the wider Caribbean.”

Nationally, he said, the initiative is aimed at strengthening the primary health care system to prevent diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

“Today, the signing represents one of those pivotal moments for health-care transformation in Guyana,” said Dr Anthony, a Public Health expert.

Mount Sinai’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Jeremy Boal said work would begin in the coming days, and  already his healthcare institution has already assembled a team of more than 40 leaders in oncology, cardiovascular medicine, endocrinology, primary and preventative care, global health and health system operations. “While we acknowledge that achieving the full healthcare transformation woukd take some time, we are hitting the ground running starting next week,” he said.

President Irfaan Ali further announced that the initiative, being spearheaded by the New York-based Mount Sinai Health System in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, would include the establishment of a Specialty Health Care facility for the treatment of persons from other countries at a lower cost.

Dr Ali said the Guyana Health Initiative also envisages the training of nurses from across the Caribbean, especially at a time when already trained and experienced nurses are being recruited by the United Kingdom (UK) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are going to bite the bullet and we’re going to do the training here. We’re going to train as much as we can train and we are going to open the training to the rest of  CARICOM at the same rates that we are paying because we have a regional responsibility. Our prosperity must bring prosperity to the rest of the region,” the President said.

The Guyanese leader said Guyana’s private health sector would be integrally involved in the project that would, among other things, include the creation of a Health Informatics System as a spin-off from an Electronic Medical Record System to do proper planning,  and a thorough assessment and realignment of the human resource needs in the health system.

The President and the Health Minister explained that the patient record system would allow for a historical tracking and analysis of persons health risks, illnesses, treatment and related documents such as tests and scans. “We envisage the day when someone would have a smart card when they come to anyone of our facilities, that they would be able to present that card and when they put it into the computer system at anyone of the facilities, you’ll be able to pull up that patient’s record regardless of whichever part of the system you come to. That record would have not just the patient’s history but all the imaging, all the medicines that they are using and a whole host of other things that go with that so it is going to be an integrated system,” the Health Minister said.

Dr. Ali also said the plan is to record the health status of all children to create a baseline database that would be used throughout their lifetime and assist with national health sector planning.

The Chief Executive Officer of Hess Corporation,  John Hess said Friday’s signing was the culmination of months of discussions that were initiated by the President. “There is no better strategic partner to work with to support the government in realising this vision than Mount Sinai, one of the most respected and finest healthcare institutions in the world,” said Mr Hess, a member of Mount Sinai’s Board.  He said that institution’s team includes “outstanding” doctors, nurses, staff, medical researchers and scientists.

President Ali, who said he would be directly involved in overseeing the project, added that the human resource evaluation to determine deficits, coordination, pairing and differentiation. He warned that those who are not up to the task would not be accommodated. “Don’t stay in it if you don’t want to be in it. We are not investing all of these resources in time and energy for nothing,” he said.