Georgetown Public Hospital says nearby vending is old issue that’s now “life threatening”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 December 2022, 23:03 by Denis Chabrol

The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) on Tuesday indicated that its concerns about food vending on New Market Street date back to several years and records show that official complaints to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council stretch from 2015 to 2022, but little has been done resulting increased risks to gravely ill patients who need to enter the hospital swiftly.

These conditions are not conducive to the effective functioning of any medical facility, particularly the GPHC. We understand that the vendors must make a living, but the presence of vendors on New Market Street between Thomas and East Streets now constitute a real life-threatening situation,” the hospital said in a statement.

Police on Monday night aborted efforts to remove the more than 20 food caravans and stall from New Market Street outside the Georgetown Public Hospital after they were blocked by owners and City Mayor Ubraj Narine from removing the structures. They are resisting efforts to move, saying that vending is their lone source of income. The vendors say they pay a weekly cleansing fee of GY$3,000 to City Hall and at least one of them has obtained written permission from the Town Clerk to sell there.

According to the GPHC, the increasing vending along  New Market and East Street not only congests the pathways for ambulances and ambulant patients but also poses a challenge for keeping the hospital’s environs clean and causes noise nuisance for patients in the hospital, as persons who stop in their vehicles to purchase from the vendors aggravate drivers who resort to excessively shouting and blowing their horns. 

The GPH said its Chief Executive Officer Robbie Rambarran last month penned a letter to Mayor Narine  requesting a meeting to discuss vending in the vicinity of that healthcare institution. That hospital’s administration said it now expects the more than 20 caravans and food stalls on New Market Street between Thomas and East Streets to be carted off almost immediately. “ The GPHC looks forward to a swift solution by removing the obstruction that presently affects easy access to the hospital,” the GPH said. The hospital administration recommended that “urgent and tactical action” be taken to relocate the vendors. 

GPH said its  records show that the relevant authorities were written to in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2022 regarding this issue, citing the threat posed by the obstruction of the traffic, particularly for ambulant vehicles and patients who are seeking care at the hospital. 

In May 2015, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Khan cited the need for an immediate intervention to mitigate any “unfortunate incidents as a result of the cluttering at the gates”. In February 2016, the CEO (ag), Mr. Allan Johnson, wrote to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) requesting the relocation of the eight (8) vendors who “impede the smooth flow of pedestrians…” followed by another correspondence from CEO, Mr. Khan in October 2016, noting that “ambulances encounter difficulty maneuvering their way in and out of the hospital”.  More recently, the hospital said its former CEO, Brigadier (ret’d) George Lewis wrote to the Mayor of Georgetown in September 2019 requesting an audience to discuss solutions to the blocking of the hospital’s access roads, followed by Mr Rambarran’s letter last month. 

For the GPHC, this has always been a matter of access to care – the presence of vendors along these streets has often delayed, particularly ambulant patients, from accessing the services they need in a timely manner. As the primary trauma care provider in the city, we cannot underscore enough the importance of having unencumbered access to our facility for our patients and their relatives. The risk that this obstruction poses is too great to ignore; for ambulant, pregnant and trauma patients, time is a critical determinant in their medical management and any imminent delays should be abated. 

GPHC said the life-threatening situation is further compounded because the obstruction also delay staff from accessing the hospital compound.

 The uncontrolled vending on New Market Street is a real detriment to our staff, patients, and their relatives. 

Patients, visiting relatives and friends as well as numerous GPHC staff depend on the food caravans for meals each day.