… concerns rise over proper storage, shortage of drugsIt was commotion and high drama when the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services, Dr Vindhya Persaud defied efforts by management of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to restrict her delegation from accessing the drug bond during an organised tour of theDr Zulfikar Bux addressing members of the parliamentary Sectoral Committee on social services during its tour of the GPHCfacility on Wednesday.At the beginning of the announced tour, Committee members were informed that the tour will be confined to four departments – Accident and Emergency, Surgical Outpatient, Cardiac ICU and the Paediatric Unit.But as the visit winded down, Dr Persaud felt it was necessary to visit the bond in light of its importance to the operations of the Hospital.Tension immediately rose however when the Chairperson of the GPHC Board, Kesaundra Alves and other hospital staff attempted to prevent the parliamentarians from visiting the area.Alves insisted that the bond was not included in the tour as no preparations were made by the staff to facilitate the visit.Nonetheless, Dr Persaud led other Committee Members including Alister Charlie,Committee Members: Junior Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister, Valerie Garrido-Lowe and Junior Public Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings during the tour of the GPHCDr Vishwa Mahadeo, as well as media personnel into the bond despite the resistance.Other Committee members who were present for the tour – Junior Public Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings and Junior Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe did not proceed to the bond.As Dr Persaud engaged with the staff, GPHC’s Chief Executive Officer, Allan Johnson made an entrance and ordered her and everyone else out of the bond.Johnson insisted that “the Minister” does not approve of the unannounced tour of the bond.Drug storageSpeaking to Guyana Times after the incident, Dr Persaud said the Committee expected a full tour of the facility to observe how things are managed daily and that there was no need to prepare staff. “What the Chair of the Board said to me that “we weren’t told that you wanted to go there” and so they didn’t prepare. But it doesn’t need to be prepared. We are here to see things as they are and that is why I went in despite of their protestation,” she explained.She noted that most of the departments they visited were in excellent condition and believes the tour was carefully orchestrated to prevent the Committee members from uncovering faults.Given the strenuous efforts exhausted to prevent the Committee members from accessing the bond, Dr Persaud said it appears that the GPHC has something to hide. Based on her brief, observations from within the bond, Dr Persaud said she also noticed that some of the drugs were not properly stored.Unsatisfied with the visit, the Chairperson of the parliamentary Committee said she will ensure that another tour is organised.Drug shortagesFurthermore, during a visit to the pharmacy, Senior Pharmacist, Jenelle Welch disclosed that there were a number of drug shortages affecting the operations of the Hospital, owing to patient overload and the untimely supply of the pharmaceuticals. In terms of injections, she said the pharmacy is out of immunoglobulin, midazolam, fortum, and insulin.Regarding tablets, she said the pharmacy does not have aspirin, metoprolol (which is critical for the treatment of cardiac patients, chest pains and hypertension), and atorvastatin for cholesterol patients.Pharmacy Manager (acting) Yvonne Bullen explained that the department usually makes requests for orders when the stock runs to a level of three months. Despite this system, the pharmacy is still affected by drug shortages.Director of Finance, Ronald Charles also explained that the timespan needs to be expanded to nine months.He noted too that another reason for the drug shortages is the inability of staff to determine an item is low in stock in a timely fashion.In this regard, he said efforts are being made to switch to an electronic process of quantification.OvercrowdingMeanwhile, some of the main issues plaguing the GPHC are the overcrowding of patients owing to the influx of referrals and the shortage of staff including both doctors and nurses.Head of the Accident and Emergency Department, Dr Zulfikar Bux explained that the Georgetown Public Hospital receives a significant number of referrals from different areas for various reasons and this impacts the majorly the services provided.“The unfortunate things with this emergency unit, this is the most critical department in the entire country in terms of patient care; the unfortunate thing is that this department service the entire city and also the entire country,” he stated.Dr Bux added, “we have a system in place, in terms of overcrowding… a plan that works very well, but it is still affected in terms of efficiency of care and effectiveness…. we cannot reject referrals, we have to take referrals. So there are times when there are four five hospitals calling sending patients, we don’t have beds but we still have to find ways to take care of them.”Compounding the situation is the issue of a staff shortage, Dr Bux lamented.He explained that a relatively stable ‘patients to nurse’ ratio would be five patients to one nurse for a low-income country but in Guyana’s case, it is about 10 patients to one nurse.There is also a shortage of doctors.“We would usually have a minimum of 16 doctors on a shift… but in terms of the doctors we would usually have a shift system… In the midnight, we have three doctors working… We would have 150 to 200 patients seen in here, 200-300 patients come here but we triage patients to the outpatient department but if you look at the doctor to patient ratio, each doctor would see about 10 patients, so if you looking at staffing for 24/7, you are looking at 30 doctors to staff the emergency,” Dr Bux explained.A senior management official told this newspaper that the problem lies with the peripheral hospitals, like those in Suddie and New Amsterdam, not functioning fully.He underscored the need for those health institutions to be upgraded and modernised to function fully in order to reduce the number of referrals so that GPHC would not be overburdened.