Budget Speech - Mr Joseph Hamilton—20143232 01 Apr, 2014
Mr. Hamilton: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. Let me begin by saying that yesterday on the Opposition side there were five speakers. My assessment of yesterday would be that the best speaker on the Opposition would be Dr. Ramayya. He was the only speaker that offered a solution, after he would have criticised – the best speaker.
It was this morning I had conversations with some PNC comrades, persons who support Mr. Greenidge in his quest for leadership in the People’s National Congress. They indicated to me that they were very much disappointed. One liken yesterday to a 50 overs match, two teams playing. On this side 306 run in six overs, opening batsman A.K. Singh, 155 not out. Expectation is at the Stadium because to open the batting for the opposite side is a Greenidge... [An Hon. Member: C.B.] C.B. Greenidge, a cousin of Gordon, I am told. So there is expectation on the other side because a Greenidge is coming to open the batting.
What we had yesterday, according to Mr. Greenidge’s comrades, is that Mr. Greenidge spent 50 minutes in the wicket; Mr. Greenidge, Hon. Member, batted 50 balls and Mr. Greenidge made seven singles. The second comrade indicated to me that his experience yesterday of the comrade that he thought should have been the leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, was that he was expecting his financial wizard to pounce on the budget, to dissect the budget presented by Dr. Ashni Singh, but instead what he was, instead of his comrade presenting his case, the case to the Guyanese people that, “If I become the Minister of Finance, this is what I would do.” Mr. Greenidge failed miserably and that is the reason why I said that the best speaker on the Opposition side yesterday was Dr. Ramayya. Because after his critique, he offered some solutions as to if he ever became a minster and if ever Mr. Ramjattan becomes the President, this is what we will do.
Mr. Bulkan, the Hon. Member, we come again to the Budget Debate. The budget presented by the Minister of Finance speaks to great ideas, a vision – hydro-projects, four-lane highways, linking Guyana Brazil and Suriname, road networks, rail networks. Mr. Bulkan’s presentation, I suspect, is more suited for a Regional Council statutory meeting, not for the National Assembly. The second point is, Mr. Bulkan is yet to understand anything at all about the Local Government System. When a Member could liken the Regional Democratic Council with a Neighbourhood Democratic Council informs you that he knows nothing about the Local Government System – nothing at all about the Local Government System. [Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: Tell us about the health system.] I will get to the health system in a minute.
I would not even speak to my good Friend, the Hon. Member Keith Scott. Dr. V. Persaud, in the most eloquent manner last night dismissed and indicated with just one line, “What is wrong with you.”
My dear friend Comrade Volda Lawrence, very proficient, spoke to many of the issues that are important issues. My concern always is that when we are discussing social issues and delinquency of children, it is always the Government. The question I always ask is where are the parents that brought these children into this world? That is the starting point. I said that in this National Assembly and divorced from this conversation is always the parents. It is the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social of Social Services, the Minister of Home Affairs. These are the persons that are responsible for children and no one asks the question, where are the fathers and mothers that brought these children into this world.
Mrs. Lawrence, you have spoke to the issue of now features on the $5000 bill for the blind. On the $5000 bill on the right hand side by the map, there is a feature for the blind. [Interruption]
My good Friend Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon means for me to speak on the health issue. Last year when I spoke, I indicated to the National Assembly that the Ministry of Health will be launching the National Health Strategy, Vision 2020 that will run from 2013-2020. That strategy was launched last year. The three pillars that the strategy is built on is health across life course, non-communicable diseases – including chronic diseases, mental health and injuries, accidents and violence; communicable diseases including traditional and emerging infections, environmental health; fifthly, food security and nutrition, health information and literacy. Many times when I hear the Comrades on the other side speak about health care delivery in the country, I wonder sometimes where were they living. The fact is, at no time in the history of this nation was so many Guyanese able to access health care – at no time and that is a fact; whether up the mountains; whether down the creeks and the rivers; whether on the coastlands, every Guyanese today, can access health care - never in history; whether under the colonial Government; whether under the PNC Government, it is the first time through the length and breadth of Guyana; whether coastland or hinterland, every citizen can access health care. Never in the history of this country had you had a doctor assigned to most of the health centres or a visitation of a doctor to health centres. [Interruption]
Mrs. Lawrence spoke to the issue of elderly care and health care delivery. Presently, the Ministry of Health, monthly, have interventions at actually all of the elderly homes. For the first time in the history of this country the Blind Institute receives medical intervention once a month – the Dharm Shala, Uncle Eddies Home, the Juvenile Centre, the Hadfield Street Drop-in Centre, the Veteran’s Home - Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon, the Veteran’s Home every month – and the Joshua Home. So some of the issues Mrs. Lawrence spoke to they have already began.
Again, many of us who are old enough would have known that in times past we had, what we called Home Based Care, where the doctor visited the your home. A white flag was put up and they would know a sick person was there and they came. Presently, Home Based Care is delivered in actually all the regions of this country, pioneered by Region No.6, under Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo.
These are some of the measures that we are doing at the Ministry of Health and these are the health care interventions. I know when my good friend the Hon. Dr. George Norton gets up to speak, he would speak specifically about his little problems he is having at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. I would always say to Cde. Dr. Norton that the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is only one place in the health sector. [Interruption]
The interventions that we are doing, recognising the backdrop is... the Minister of Finance last year, made available, 17... [Ms. Ally: Inaudible] Ms. Ally, I would say this, you must understand that Rabbi Washington was because the PNC is. [Interruption] One of these days you will get the full story. Hopefully before Mr. Hamilton Green and Mr. Robert Corbin dies.
The sector expanded in excess of $17.7 million in 2013, recognising the backdrop... [Mr. Ramjattan: ...of Rodney’s Commission.] Yes Mr. Ramjattan. Recognising that many of the projects and programmes that the Ministry have implemented over the last five years, the donor support for many of those programmes, some have come to an end and some are not at the percentage where it was. The Minister of Finance recognising the new dynamic in the health sector is now making available to the health sector $21.5 billion in the 2014 Budget allocation and we thank him most wholeheartedly for that.
As I indicated, one of the pillars of the new strategies is “Health across the life course”. Mrs. Lawrence spoke to the issue of elderly support and care. The Ministry of Health, recognising the need because of longevity of persons – Do you know, Mr. Speaker, on one hand you criticise the Health Care Sector for not delivering health care services and hear the contradiction, you yourself is saying that persons are living longer. Why do you think that persons are living longer? Because the health care intervention is there that was not there. It is not just living longer, it is because 20 years ago there was not the type of health care intervention that you have today – that is why people are living longer. It is simple. That is why people’s live expectancy has moved from 56 years to 72 years, as you have indicated. It is because of the health care intervention. That is what it is. They did not just start to live longer. [An. Hon. Member: What about ...] I have already answered that question.
Recognising that people are living longer, the Ministry of Health is attempting to put in place interventions. Therefore, under the auspices of the Regional Health Services of the Ministry of Health, with help from Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), we conducted training sessions where we are moving and training doctors, nurses and health care providers in geriatric care, recognising Mrs. Lawrence that the health sector is doing better and people are living longer now we have pay attention to care for the elderly - health care. That is why we have introduced Home Based Care; that is why we have introduced intervention at the elderly homes; that is why we have introduced these measures.
Mr. Speaker: You have five minutes within which to conclude Mr. Hamilton.
Mr. Hamilton: Mr. Speaker, the other issue is during the year we did surgical outreaches, where doctors are assembled and patients were screened. Last year, surgical outreaches were done in Mabaruma - three surgical outreaches, 184 patients were seen and 68 surgeries were done. In Bartica 4 surgical outreaches were done, 132 patients were seen and 88 surgeries done. [Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: Where were they from?] They are from Suriname. Mr. Speaker, in Lethem, 2 surgical outreaches, 325 patients seen and 89 surgeries were done. Two hundred and thirty five surgeries were done in the hinterland communities, via surgical outreaches.
Lethem, Bartica and the North Pakarimas – Eye Care Outreaches, Hon. Dr. George Norton. Eye Care Outreaches were done 687 patients seen, 492 patients were treated and 56 patients were referred for specialist treatment.
Ultrasound services were done in Lethem and Bartica in which 434 patients were seen. In the North Pakaraimas dental services were done in which 227 patients were seen and 134 received treatment.
Mr. Speaker, the interventions by the Ministry of Health, and you would note that, again, I make this boast...I said in 2012 that for the several decades when one spoke of a doctor of Amerindian ancestry the only name came to mind was Dr. George Norton. That is not so anymore. Thanks to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). In every hinterland community today there are doctors of Amerindian ancestry who are trained, qualified and go back to serve their communities. Dr. Norton was there for 30 years. [Dr. Norton: I teach them... [inaudible].] We are glad you taught them, Dr. Norton.
Mrs. Lawrence touched on the issue of cervical cancer. Again, recognising the importance of cancer in females, the Ministry of Health has launched Visual Inspection with Acetic acid (VIA) training programmes. Presently, there are 39 personnel currently providing VIA services at 19 sites across the region and Guyana – Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), NTCT, Dorothy Bailey Health Centre, Bartica, Suddie, Skeldon, West Demerara, Leonora, Campbellville, Mahaicony, New Amsterdam, Lethem, Wismar, Kitty Health Centre and the St Joseph Mercy Hospital and Pakera Hospital.
As I have said, the strategy allows for... How we plan to ensure that the strategy is successful it is to mobilise and reorient our resources, to collaborate with communities, and we have started that already, improve health literacy and to deal with intersectional actions recognising - as the new buzzword in the health sector is the social determinants of health - that health care is more than just getting sick. There are issues about the environment, and all of those issues. As I have said...
Before I close, also we are seeking to review and update health legislation. Presently, the nurses and midwife legislation was put together in collaboration with the nursing council and the nurses’ association. That legislation is at the Attorney General’s Chamber to go to Cabinet and then to the National Assembly.
We have done consultation on health protection and promotion legislation. That is repealing the public ordinance. The optometrist is also at the Attorney General Chambers. For the mental health legislation, consultation is to begin. There is a draft Mental Health Bill and also the tobacco control legislation. These two legislation, consultations are to commence very shortly.
As I have indicated, when I started, the Ministry of Health is appreciative, recognising the new situation in health care delivery, recognising that many of our donors will not be supporting many of the programmes and so to sustain these programmes, and to continue these interventions the Hon. Minister of Finance has indicated that he will make available $4 billion more than what the Government had set aside last year for health care delivery.
I have outlined some of the programmes that the Ministry of Health has put in place for 2013. All of those programmes will continue and new programmes also will be put in place so that our health strategy will become a major success and, as indicated by Comrade Lawrence, people will live longer.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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