Infectious Diseases Hospital a “total disaster” – new Health Minister
…as COVID-19 cases reach 500 mark
Newly appointed Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony has described the recently commissioned Infectious Diseases Hospital, formerly the Ocean View International Hotel, as “a total disaster”.
He holds this view since there are many works that need to be done at the facility before it commences operation and starts taking in patients.
“This hospital that was recently opened is a total disaster because it’s just a shell, and we’ll have to take a team in there and see what we’ll have to do to get it up and running,” Dr Anthony told reporters on Wednesday after he and 18 other Cabinet Members were sworn in by President Dr Irfaan Ali at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
The flood-prone former Ocean View International Hotel, located at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, was rehabilitated into an Infectious Diseases Hospital by the previous APNU/AFC Coalition to facilitate the immediate need to treat COVID-19 patients and, ultimately, other infectious diseases. The facility is expected to serve as the premier institution for the quarantining and isolation of persons who have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
As at Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Guyana had surpassed the 500 mark, as 12 new cases were recorded. Of the 509 cases in Guyana, 299 are currently active cases, with 298 persons in institutional isolation and one patient in the dedicated COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Georgetown Public Hospital. There also 38 persons in institutional quarantine.
The new Infectious Diseases Hospital is expected to relief the burden of other public health facilities in the country, but Dr Anthony pointed out that the facility was commissioned as a “shell,” and without any structure in place.
Currently, there is neither medical equipment nor furniture in the building, nor has it been assigned staff.
Guyana Times was previously told that the Public Health Ministry was transferring medical equipment from other smaller health facilities that were established to treat COVID-19 positive cases.
According to the new Health Minister, at a minimum, approximately 20 doctors are needed for the facility, along with technicians and other staff.
“We have a shell, and if we are going to be able to utilise that facility, then we’ll have to do some more renovations to put in (there) things like oxygen, centralised suction and all of that; plus we’ll have to buy all the equipment like bed, ventilators, consumables, and a whole host of things… What we have there right now, a person sick with COVID cannot go to that hospital, because there is nothing. So, to get that up to speed, we’ll have to do a lot more work,” Dr Anthony said.
One aspect the Minister said he will have to get experts to look at is the air circulation at the facility.
“One of the problems you have with an Infectious Disease Hospital is that you have to limit the airflow within the rooms, and I’m not sure what are the issues relating to airflows in that building, because if we’re not careful, there can be cross-contamination within the building itself. So there’s a lot of work to be done to get that place up to speed,” he stated.
Further, Dr Anthony explained that he is currently in the process of conducting assessments and costing, in order to submit a report to President Dr Irfaan Ali with all that is required to combat the spread of the life-threatening disease.
He noted that he has seen a list of items needed for the Infectious Diseases Hospital in his preliminary report from the Health Ministry, but he will have to review it before making any recommendations to, and/or requests of, the President.
The new Health Minister noted that while he has been assured that he would be given the resources needed, there is a lot of goodwill emanating particularly from international donor organisations; and he said he would soon be starting discussions with those agencies.
“I’ve been assured that this is one of the main priorities of this Government. We want to bring COVID under control. The President has told me that this is one of his main priorities, and whatever resources are needed to make sure this is brought under control will be available to the Ministry,” Anthony related.
While the establishment of the Infectious Diseases Hospital was part of the previous Coalition Government’s national response to the coronavirus pandemic, the project had come under heavy scrutiny and criticism over the lack of information and apparent sketchy deal that was made.
In fact, at last Friday’s commissioning ceremony of the facility, former President David Granger was unable to give a final cost for the renovation and outfitting of the hospital.
“This used to be a hotel. The person who built the hotel was heavily indebted to the banks, and my understanding is that it is in receivership. In other terms, we don’t have a bottom line, and the Minister of Public Health and the Minister of Finance are quite aware of the level of expenditure (that is needed), and Cabinet is convinced that the expenditure is justified,” Granger had stated.
Initially, the project was pegged at $1B for the renovation works, but this was later increased.