Lawrence mulls beefing up security at health facilities nationwide

GEORGETOWN, MOPH – Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence wants the full backing of the Judiciary and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) as she mulls beefing up security at medical facilities nationwide.

Lawrence wants perpetrators of attacks on health workers face the full brunt of the law and be given “the maximum penalty” for turning health facilities into combat zones.

After a verbal altercation between a guard and a patient at a health centre in Sophia, in the capital, the latter, after threatening to shoot the security official, returned the following day armed with a machete hidden in a backpack.

Lawrence flanked by Commander Leslie James and REO Denis Jaikaran.

The guard challenged the patient who had reached “as far as the dressing room” with the deadly weapon and was arrested by the guard and reportedly later charged by the police.

Staff at that Sophia health facility are understandably “not feeling safe” in their work environment.

Minister Lawrence is worried by the heightened danger faced by health workers’ who have been enduring sexual assaults, physical attacks and racially-charged verbal threats from irate, drunken and short-tempered persons seeking medical care.

While Lawrence admits being uncomfortable with that the imagery of armed security at health facilities becoming a norm, she maintained that the “safety of health workers and patients is my priority”.

Since taking up the public health portfolio early January, Lawrence has had to deal with mounting security concerns from doctors, nurses and other categories of health workers made targets by some patients.

Public health workers stationed at the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) have been the most vulnerable to assaults by patients and/or their families, drawing intense government, regional and national concern and criticisms.

Lawrence met with Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) authorities and security officials to help craft a blueprint to reverse what doctors at the institution said were years of aggressive treatment from angry patients and/or their families who were either drunk or upset at the time taken before getting medical attention.

The situation boiled over about two months ago when a drunken relative of a patient exploded in rage damaging hospital property, assaulting emergency room doctors and breathe out threats before escaping while remaining on the lam.

“I am totally fed up and discouraged. It doesn’t feel good working anymore,” admitted young Dr. Pooran Outar, who said he has “countless experiences” being attacked by irate patients and their disgruntled families.

“This matter will not just slide, I want the staff to feel safe and secure…their safety comes first,” Lawrence assured a team of distraught West Demerara Hospital employees when she met with them last month.

Since that meeting, ‘D’ Division Commander Leslie James has ramped up security at the Regional Hospital with strong support from the Region Three authorities, including Regional Executive Officer (REO), Mr. Denis Jaikaran.

A senior Region Three health official confirmed Monday verbal and physical attacks at the WDRH has dried up since the posting of a police there.

“We have no other issues with security there are no hiccups (and) things are functioning well,” the health official said.

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