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The healthcare situation in Grenada

Medical personnel alone are not enough

Did you know that May 2020 statistics from the Grenada Medical and Dental Council show that there are 179 doctors registered to practise in the State? Of that number, 63 are specialists and 113 are general practitioners. Other important facts to note: The operations of the Ministry of Health are guided by and aligned to the Strategic Plan 2016 to 2025. It is a fact that pandemics and other major health emergencies must, of course, always be prioritised; but, the overarching principles of regulation and monitoring of services MUST be at the forefront and judging by the success of the COVID-19 response, the verdict of the jury is in the affirmative.

As I interpret your thoughts, I hear you saying “if there are so many doctors who are registered to practise in Grenada, in fact, a total which exceeds the doctor/patient ratio expected by International Bodies [Students your research for today] then, why is it that people are constantly seeking overseas help? And truth be told, this question is one that is indeed valid. However, the irrefutable answer is that personnel alone is not enough. Rather, there must be a team that includes but is not limited to supporting staff, relevant equipment and laboratory testing-material to name some. These afore-mentioned features, coupled with trained and devoted personnel, constitute an adequate and comprehensive health system.

Will telemedicine help? Only time will tell. In countries classified as First World countries, it is common practice for patients/clients to be transferred, referred and airlifted to hospitals and clinics that specialise in different areas.  Among these areas of speciality are burns, varicose veins, different types of cancer, HIV, eye care and kidney disease, among others. Let it be known that a fundamental tenet of an effective health system, is the ability to make assessments and judgements that are based on the best interests and well-being of the patients. And if in doing so, the conclusion is drawn that there is need to seek further assistance overseas, this should not be perceived as a weakness of our health system. In contrast, this is reflective of a health system that is conscious of the needs of those who seek its services and one which is prepared to do right by the people of Grenada.

Let us review some more facts. Grenada has three hospitals –one main (the General Hospital) and two subsidiary (the Princess Alice Hospital and the Princess Royal), one stand-alone psychiatry hospital (Mt Gay Mental Hospital), 30 medical stations and six health centres. These clinics are within a three-mile radius of each other. Some have argued that there are too many and have advanced arguments to close clinics. I do not agree with that view. These are all state–run services; each one serving a distinct purpose. In addition, there are numerous private facilities which complement government’s thrust to provide health services to the citizenry.

Being conscious of the mandate to regulate services and coupled with its inherent caring role, Government enables, supports and liaises with private health-providers by means of signed MOUs and concessions at customs for purchase of equipment and supplies.  Careful analysis will reveal that these are ascribed high importance among Government’s primary responsibilities. All providers must be checked to ensure their legitimacy and to give confidence to us the citizens.   After all ‘it requires two hands to clap’. Despite the constant rhetoric and invalidated utterances, NO ONE can merely get up and come to our shores to practise without licences and GOG authorisation.

 It behooves us all to appropriately recognise the supportive role of the contributions in cash and kind from the diaspora, the health-related NGO’s, visiting specialists – whether through SGU or otherwise, medical ships, floating hospitals, friendly governments like Cuba, service clubs etc. Let us not forget CHORES and their commitment to the nation’s children. Partnerships such as these are integral to the development of the health sector and the nation by extension. Oh how the Rotary Eye clinics are missed this year!  Alas, COVID-19 has a lot to answer for when 2020 is assessed. 

Let us try to see our glass as being half-full and not half-empty. Let us be encouraged by what we have. Ironically though, while there are those who selectively choose to focus on the shortcomings, the fact is we are definitely the envy of many in the region and the world in many respects: clean water, twice-weekly garbage collection, 98% percent immunisation coverage and a peaceful atmosphere; all key features of a healthy nation.  Let us constructively criticise and chide the health care workers within our homes and our communities when they consciously fall short! Let us grab every opportunity for self-care and disease-prevention. Let us try to provide the space for the policymakers to maximise the available resources to provide the leadership they were elected to give in this crucial area so that all of us can be more satisfied and be healthier.  You and yours reading this, I have a special message for you: as parents or guardians, when your off-spring accepts State support for education in the noble health field you must not condone their actions to forsake the very taxpayers, the very citizens whose resources afforded them the opportunity.  Enough said!!

Let us be vocal when it is necessary! Let us seek information without fear! Let us commit to ‘less’ old talk and ‘more’ personal action. Each of us can make a difference. Let us familiarise ourselves with technology and integrate same especially in the fields of agriculture and education, for it is indisputably here to stay.  Recently, a number of advancements have been made in that area. Permit me to highlight the recent upgrade of the official website and the Electronic Medical Records. Look forward to the opening of the major clinic in Gouyave and Phase two of the General Hospital. My friends, we are well on our way. Authentic change is not done haphazardly but is change that is done incrementally and meaningfully.

Readers, like you, I am not satisfied but I am prepared to take positive action.  I am prepared to do my part, for I firmly believe in the saying, teamwork makes the dream work. The question is, are YOU?

A retired health practitioner

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