We wish our sisters and brothers a safe and merry Christmas. We also extend congratulations to Health Minister the Honourable Frank Anthony. On Thursday, December 16, Dr Anthony presented the first reading of the Tissue and Organ Transplant Bill in the National Assembly. It is expected that, on Thursday December 30, 2021, the Minister would present the Bill for its second and third readings. We are hopeful the Bill would enjoy unanimous support.
That Guyana has reached the stage where it is necessary to pass a law regulating organ and tissue transplants is indicative of how far Guyana has come in healthcare. In 1992, when Guyana restored democracy, our country was struggling to simply do a basic blood test like measuring someone’s hemoglobin. In less than thirty years, we have travelled an exciting road, but we have bumped our heads too many times. In 1992, no Guyanese could honestly have said they would have envisaged Guyana doing laparoscopy, open-heart surgery, brain surgery, and organ transplant with local staff. No Guyanese would have been able at the time to predict Guyana would be delivering dialysis and radiotherapy using locally trained Guyanese nurses and doctors. But in 2021, these services have become almost routine in Guyana, both in the Public and Private Sectors. Impressively, these advances continue to be led by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
GPHC has innumerable stories over the years that make Guyanese proud. Equally, it has too many stories that make too many of us shake our heads in disbelieve. To say that the GPHC has disappointed too many of us too many times is not an understatement. But, as we end 2021, the Hospital is poised to deliver many more success stories, and hopefully, at the same time, provide fewer opportunities for the Guyanese people to feel disappointed. As 2021 comes to a quick end, there is a long list of accomplishments, in spite of the difficulties COVID-19 has presented. Amidst the restrictions, the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and managers at GPHC achieved some ground-breaking milestones.
As the year closed, Dr Kishore Persaud and his team of young Guyanese doctors and nurses successfully completed six kidney transplants, one of which was with a citizen of Grenada. When we did our first kidney transplantation back in 2008 with an international team at the GPHC, it was one that few believed possible. Even more, it was unbelievable at the time because few believed that the GPHC had the facilities for the international team to perform such a surgery. But even then, few would have predicted that Guyanese doctors and nurses would have taken up the mantle. This is world-class, complicated surgery done on very sick people. Because GPHC’s capacity for transplantation has increased, the hospital has established a Transplant Surgery Unit. With the expected passage of the Transplant Bill next week, the GPHC is preparing itself for transplantation to be routine at the hospital.
Because of the presence of the transplant team at the GPHC, and the emergence of a team of vascular surgeons and nurses, the GPHC was able to successfully conduct its first Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) surgery. For this historic achievement, Dr Carlos Martin, the lead surgeon in the vascular team, and Dr Kishore Persaud, the hospital’s transplant and vascular surgeon, performed the AAA surgery on a female patient. AAA is an aneurysm or swelling of the body’s main blood vessel – the aorta, which transports blood from the heart to all other body parts. In a weak artery, the walls can break, causing death. AAA is present in about 1 to 5 percent of the population on autopsy. High blood pressure, blood vessel diseases, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), infection in the aorta, and trauma are a number of factors than can contribute to the development of AAA.
Dr Martin’s youthful team has already made vascular surgery a routine medical intervention, having completed more than 250 vascular surgeries ranging from arteriovenous fistula to ruptured AAA repairs. People with complex and serious conditions of the blood vessels and lymph system (vascular diseases) in the past suffered for years without relief. Now the vascular team at the GPHC, consisting of clinical vascular and endovascular surgeons, provides coordinated and comprehensive treatment to people of all ages. Conditions treated include peripheral artery disease, aortic disease, mesenteric disease, and carotid artery disease. With such competencies at the GPHC, greater support is available for the cardiologists, the transplant team, and other specialist teams.
These represent just a small part of the advancements at the GPHC. In fact, on November 25, the same day the ground-breaking AAA surgery was done at the GPHC, another GPHC surgeon, Dr Duan, led his team in the first-ever liver resection for gallbladder cancer in Guyana; and yet another GPHC surgeon, Dr Ramcharran, and his team did Guyana’s first laparoscopic adrenalectomy.
Lest we forget, Dr Mahendra Carpen and his team provide daily cardiology services, Dr Amarnauth Dukhi brings competencies in brain surgery, Dr Zulphi Bux brings ER specialist treatment, and Dr Sugrim is ready to make corneal transplant a regular service at the hospital. The GPHC is on the road to taking leadership in medicine in Guyana to new heights in 2022.