Canada funds improving maternal, newborn and child health in Guyana’s hinterland

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 March 2023, 17:51 by Denis Chabrol

President of Giving Health to Kids, Associate Clinical Professor at Mc Master University, Dr Narendra Singh (left) signing the funding agreement with Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana Mark Berman. Witnessing the signing are Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony,  Head of Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission, Jessica Teasdale and Senior International Assistance Officer at the Canadian High Commission, Gina Arjoon. 

The Canadian government on Tuesday inked a CDN$2.5 million agreement with the non-governmental organisation, Giving Health to Kids, to improve maternal, newborn and child health in Guyana’s hinterland after research showed some worrisome findings.

President of Giving Health to Kids, Associate Clinical Professor at Mc Master University, Dr Narendra Singh said the five-year project has been developed to increase the chance of survival by mothers in hinterland regions compared to  the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). “If a mother delivers a baby  in Lethem today, does that mother have the same chance of survival, does that baby have the same chance of survival as if that mother delivered that baby a GPHC? And the answer is no. That’s why we’re here today. Because of that gross discrepancy between the rural and the urban areas,” he said.

The project, which was initially thought of 12 years ago, is being funded by Global Health Canada to address the inequity in the quality of maternal and child healthcare in the hinterland.

Dr Singh said the under five mortality in Guyana is “very high” and “much higher” than Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. Actual figures, he said, show that 75  to 80 percent of the under five mortality occurred because babies were dying less than 28 days old.

Already, the President of Giving Health to Kids said a partnership among the Ministry of Health, Georgetown Public Hospital and the University of Guyana has seen the training of 23 paediatricians pursuing a postgraduate residency program and 17 neonatal intensive care nurses  as well as the installation of Neonatal Intensive Care Units, all resulting in the elevation of the standard of neonatal care at the Georgetown Public Hospital from from level one to level three.  “And what we found was training the residents training the nurses, providing them with essential life saving equipment, because of precipitous drop in the neonatal mortality at the Georgetown Public Hospital,” he said.

Dr Singh explained that President Irfaan Ali’s allocation of CDN$1 million for the purchase of equipment of the Neonatal Intensive Care Units would be complemented by the Canadian grant to train staff in using the equipment to develop programs from the time of conception to create proper prenatal care and ensure staff are properly trained in neonatal care.

Neonatologist and Board Member of Giving Health to Kids, Dr Leif Nelin said the research points to the need for all pregnant women must be examined at least once by an obstetrician at their community clinics, training of staff and physicians at community health centres to conduct recommended antenatal testing and best post partum care.

Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman said the project would contribute to Canada’s commitment to advance the health and rights of women and children around the world including here in Guyana. “I’m pleased to be here to launch an initiative that supports Canada’s commitment to empowering to empowering women and girls and flex our government’s feminist international assistance policy,” he said.

Several Guyanese have been trained in Canada in neonatology, pediatric oncology, pediatric emergency medicine, pediatric radiology and another interventional radiology through a memorandum of understanding with Mc Master University that was signed about two years ago with Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony. On Tuesday, he hailed the benefits of that accord. He expected that those specialists would be an asset to the British-funded Maternal and Children Hospital being constructed at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.

“And I think exposure to these fellowships is additional types of training would certainly help us as we move forward to try to deliver high quality of medicine. All of this and this type of training would help us right now, when people come back, you’re seeing the difference that they’re making in the various departments. That they’re attached to some cases that you’re running. But certainly for kids for neonatology. We like to see all of this skill being transported to that new hospital that will require more sub specialization. So I think that’s something that you have to continue working on to get various sub specialists in the various areas,” he said.

Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy said, while Guyana was aiming for a life expectancy of 75 years by 2025, that target could be achieved only if there is improved maternal and childhood mortality.