Georgetown Public Hospital functions as the country’s last stop for care

By Katie Burrell

Guyana’s Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is known as the country’s last-stop hospital, and takes the heaviest load in patient care.

For people in Guyana, it means they likely will be taking a trip abroad for specialized care if they cannot receive it in Georgetown. Being largest public hospital in the country can be costly on the hospital’s budget and resource supply.

Elizabeth Gonsalvez, deputy CEO of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation,  stepped into her position three months ago. She has traveled to other countries including Canada to witness medical care and said shetook her position to improve conditions in her hospital because she knows how many people rely on its care.

“We call it the last-stop hospital because we’ve got lots of hospitals that are out there in the less developed areas and they’re not able to handle some situations,” Gonsalvez said. “We have quite a few specialties that are under one roof. We’re doing pretty good with what we have. I know there is room for improvement.”

In Guyana, hospitals are either privately owned or they are funded through the Ministry of Public Health or the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

Private hospitals charge patients for care, medications and operations unlike public hospitals which charge nothing for almost all services. Public hospitals rely on the ministry for supplies including medications and tools.

Gonsalvez said she wants to get more equipment for the hospital and give more attention to the nursing staff. She said nurses at the hospital will benefit from more education.

Sharon Armstead, director of clinical education and clinical assistant professor in Texas State University’s department of respiratory care, was born  in Guyana before moving to the United States to pursue a career as a respiratory therapist and later, a clinical professor. Armstead has travelled to Guyana at least four times since 2015, making it a point to visit Georgetown Public Hospital and provide training, advice and supplies.

Armstead compares the hospital to any other in the U.S.; it has hardworking staff doing their best with what they have.

She said the hospital is so inundated with patients it often does not have enough materials to work with. In a hospital with 500 beds and plenty of patients in need of care each day, the last-stop hospital could use more specialized caregivers.

“I think if you add another discipline (respiratory therapy), you would improve the care,” Armstead said. “By literature, it shows a faster recovery time and less time in the ICU for patients.”

Sheik Amir, director of medical services at Georgetown Public Hospital said the hospital does the best with what it has, but would benefit from receiving more supplies from the Ministry of Public Health.

“Patients have a finite limit for what they can pay, so when that happens they come here,” Amir said. “This is the capital of Guyana, the city hospital, so historically this is the better staffed hospital. Generally speaking, most surgeries are being done in this hospital and regional hospitals.”

Amir said he sees how his hospital will improve with the addition of respiratory therapists, or nurses trained to specialize in respiratory care would benefit his hospital which is so responsible for specialized medical care in the country.

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