The Government of Guyana is still battling with numerous challenges left behind by the former APNU/AFC Administration, including significant drug deficiencies, lack of ambulances, incomplete infrastructural projects and job shortages, says Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony. The Minister made this statement in his contribution to the Budget debate today in the National Assembly.
Minister Anthony said these problems are systemic and while some progress has been made, it would require a lot more work to permanently correct the deficiencies and the damage done by the APNU/AFC.
“Mr. Speaker, the APNU/AFC left us with many incomplete infrastructural projects, the most famous is the Infectious Disease Hospital, where they spent $1 billion, yet it was inoperable. Our Government had to fix all the deficiencies, buy all the equipment and find staff to run the facility. We had to make it operable. Mr. Speaker, despite all of those challenges we were able to start the services at that facility on the 1st September, 2020,” he said.
To date, Minister Anthony said close to 700 patients have been treated at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. However, this was not the only project left unfinished.
“There are many other incomplete projects including the Ruimveldt Polyclinic and the Ministry of Health head office. Mr. Speaker, let’s just look at the Ministry of Health headquarters, this is a clear case of mismanagement and if not possible, corruption.
This project, which was started in 2017 at the cost of $365 million and was to be completed in 365 days, is still not finished. The contractor was paid $304 million which represented 85 percent of the contract sum, and of that sum that was paid, $233 million was paid without any valuation certificates,” he said.
“Mr. Speaker, we will have to plaster the walls. We have to fix the ceilings, do internal and external painting and installation of a lift, build some stairs, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, yet, 85 percent of the money has already been expended.”
Minister Anthony noted that the contract has since been terminated and a new tender has been advertised for the completion of the head office. However, the Ministry is still challenged by drug shortages.
“We have inherited a messy situation where drugs and medical supplies were not purchased since 2018, and more than $1 billion worth of drugs in the bond had expired. We had to dump this.
We had to start to address this shortage by doing emergency procurement to fulfill the immediate needs and we are hopeful that with this year’s allocation of more than $7 billion that we will stabilise this situation,” Dr. Anthony said.
Some $53.5 billion was earmarked in Budget 2021 for the health sector.