Guyana shares similar focus with PAHO/WHO for universal health coverage

─ as World Health Day 2019 is observed

DPI, Guyana, Saturday, April 6, 2019

World Health Day 2019 is April 7. This day is being observed under the same theme as last year – ‘Universal Health: Everyone, Everywhere’. With this is in mind, countries around the world, including Guyana are focusing more keenly on universal health coverage with access to primary health care.

It also places the importance on the availability of preventative measures and healthcare services at the level of primary health care. The Ministry of Public Health has taken note of this and continues to work to ensure that all Guyanese, regardless of their location, have access to a health service or facility.

This is widely accommodated though medical outreaches especially in far-flung and hinterland regions. However, the ultimate goal of the ministry is to establish health posts and health centres in communities so that its residents will not have to travel long distances and spend sums of money to access health care service.

In 2018, President David Granger has mandated the Ministry of Public Health to ensure that health care in Guyana is accessible where a person must not travel more than five kilometres to get to a health care facility.

Just recently, in East Berbice-Corentyne, Region 6, two health centres were commissioned, one on the East Bank of Berbice and the other on the Corentyne Coast. In addition to this, services were introduced to Skeldon, Port Mourant and the New Amsterdam Hospitals.

This is one way in which the President’s mandate is being fulfilled. Also, the training of health personnel continues. Community Health Workers have been trained while others are earmarked to commence training. These CHWs are from hinterland communities within Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9.

These CHWs are tasked with ensuring that persons in their communities are aware of the risks of illness especially chronic disease and how they can prevent illnesses. Once this aspect is effective there will be less of a need to have referrals done to Regional and District hospitals in the hinterland.

Their focus will be more on the preventative component of health and well-being which will guarantee and ensure that Guyanese are among the healthiest in the Caribbean as penned in the ministry’s 2020 health vision.

Meanwhile, the goal of the Ministry of Public Health, through its Regional Health Services Department, is to ensure every health centre throughout the length and breadth of Guyana is staffed with a doctor along with support staff.

As this is being implemented, emphasis is now being placed on the Integrated Health Service Delivery Network (IHSDN). This is where the ministry will focus on a more holistic primary health care delivery mechanism by addressing social determinants of health while ensuring the patient is healthy.

PAHO/WHO defines the Integrated Health Service Delivery Network as a network of organisations that provides, or make arrangements to provide, equitable, comprehensive, integrated, and continuous health services to a defined population and is willing to be held accountable for its clinical and economic outcomes and the health status of the population served. Essentially, IHSDN is a network which will strengthen primary health care locally.

IHSDN has been rolled out in Guyana in all regions except Regions 5 (Mahaica-Berbice) and 8 (Potaro-Siparuni). All ten administrative regions are expected to have introduced the network by the end of April 2019.

These are just some of the measures the Public Health Ministry has been implementing to harness primary health care in Guyana and to ensure it is accessible, affordable, equitable and effective.

According to the World Health Organisation, Universal Health means that all people have access, without any kind of discrimination, to comprehensive quality services, wherever they need them, without facing financial difficulties. It requires the definition and implementation of policies and actions with a multisectoral approach to address the social determinants of health and promote the commitment of the whole society with health and well-being.

This year, World Health Day celebrations mark the end of the World Health Organization’s 70th anniversary celebrations, which commenced in 2018. In the Region of the Americas, these celebrations have been framed around universal health.

Delicia Haynes.

Images: Department of Public Information.