Guyana, UWI in talks for School of Medicine in Berbice

…Cuba wants to help build vaccine development capacity here

As it continues to modernise the local healthcare system, the Guyana Government is currently in discussions with the University of West Indies (UWI) for the establishment of a School of Medicine here.
This was revealed by President Dr Irfaan Ali on Sunday morning during the commissioning of a $474.6 million state-of-the-art Pathology Laboratory at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
It was disclosed last month that there would be dedicated buildings at the new US$161 million hospital being constructed at New Amsterdam, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), for teaching purposes. According to President Ali, this message reached the officials at UWI.
“Today, I’m pleased to inform you that the University of West Indies’ School of Medicine has now approached us to be part of this vision in bringing their campus here to Guyana, and negotiations and discussions would have commenced,” the Head of State revealed.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

The Guyana Leader noted the possibility of a UWI-recognised School of Medicine in Region Six opens up the possibility of attracting students from neighbouring Suriname and other Caribbean nations. In order to ensure this happens, President Ali assured that the School of Medicine here would have the same rates as other UWI facilities.
“…Importantly, in the negotiations, we are now working on ensuring that the rates are the same as local students in Trinidad and Tobago, so there will be equity and quality matched together,” he declared.

Currently, Guyana has its own School of Medicine through the University of Guyana (UG). But the Head of State posited that “…competition is a part of life and a necessity in improving quality”.
The establishment of a UWI School of Medicine in Guyana comes as the Government is investing heavily in enhancing the local healthcare system, with the aim of developing a top health-tourism industry in the Region.
To achieve this goal, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration has been working with international partners in the healthcare industry, including Northwell Health and Mount Sinai Health System – two major United States-based healthcare providers.

An artist’s impression of the new US$161 million hospital

While Government already has several initiatives and collaborations ongoing with the Mount Sinai group, one of the newest projects under this partnership will be the establishment of a world-class forensic facility in Guyana.
“We are working now, and we hope to have before the end of the year, a world-class forensic facility right here in Guyana, where everything in relation to forensics can be done right here in Guyana, and that is the next target for the end of the year with Mount Sinai,” he revealed.
According to President Ali, the partnership with the New York-based Mount Sinai has already produced some tremendous results. One such collaboration is the digitalisation of the local healthcare system. Mount Sinai has been working with the Health Ministry on conducting an assessment of the local healthcare management information system, and the patient management information system.
Moreover, Government and Mount Sinai, in collaboration with US-based energy major Hess Corporation, have also rolled out the Comprehensive Child and Youth Health Programme, which aims to screen school-aged children.

UWI’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad

Last year, some 11,000 students were screened, with 350 of them accessing post screening-services such as dental examination, hearing and vision examination, screening for development and growth, vaccination and importantly, mental health services. While this screening programme initially targeted nursery children, Government is planning to expand the initiative this year to screen some 87,000 schoolchildren from various levels through this partnership.
“So, part of what we’re doing in the modernisation of the healthcare system, and an important part of what Mount Sinai and us, what we’re doing is building an educational component, a cultural component, a societal component, a community component to what we want to achieve as the end product,” the Guyanese Leader noted.
On this note, President Ali added that another important feature of the modernisation of Guyana’s healthcare system is research and development. Apart from healthcare companies, the Guyana Government is also working with several bilateral partner-nations to advance its healthcare system.
“Research and development is critical for the development of our healthcare system. But we have to create the mechanism through which we can encourage research and development, and incentivise a system that encourages research and development…
“We are very serious about the establishment of a vaccine manufacturing facility in Guyana to service the entire LAC (Latin America and Caribbean) region. We are working with different partners including the EU (European Union), the UK (United Kingdom), and of course, recently, Cuba has reached out to us to partner in this area of vaccine development, and research and development. So, this is another piece of the puzzle that will migrate our healthcare system to a platform in which it will be second to none,” the Head of State noted.
The idea of a vaccine manufacturing plant in Guyana has its origins in the inequality evident in the manufacturing, pricing, and distribution of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic when countries like Guyana had to wait on the availability of the treatment as developed countries were given priority.
The Guyana Government has stated that vaccine, and by extension pharmaceutical, equity is not only key for the country but for regional public health security.
To this end, Guyana has already received the support of India to establish a vaccine production facility here, similar to BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine factory in Kigali, Rwanda, back in 2022. (G8)