– Ramsammy urges victims to file complaints with Health Ministry
By Keeran Singh
Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has confirmed that he has received complaints of physicians and other public health employees soliciting financial contributions from their patients.
The minister was responding to a Kaieteur News query about allegations of Guyana-based Cuban doctors accepting monetary and other gifts from patients for medical services.
He added that this is unacceptable and the Ministry is trying to control this situation but needs the public’s co-operation.
Ramsammy stressed that patients utilizing public health treatment should refuse to pay for services and complain formally with supporting evidence to his Ministry.
“Generally speaking I do believe it happened and we have cases where doctors no longer work with us. It is due process and there is a need to document complaints,” he stated.
Kaieteur News has received several complaints about some Cuban doctors providing preferential treatment to patients who reward them with gifts including Blackberry phones, I-Pods and cash.
A local medical staffer alleged that this malpractice has contributed to the lengthy waiting hours patients encounter at these public facilities.
Kaieteur News was told that at the Leonora Cottage Hospital, West Coast Demerara, where there are reportedly seven Cuban doctors and one Guyanese doctor, the waiting period for the ‘poor’ is lengthy, while the more affluent are prioritized.
According to a source, this situation was so alarming at the health facility that patients openly complained and a meeting was recently held to address the matter. However, some employees believe that the culprits are still involved in this practice.
This situation reportedly also exists at another diagnostic centre in Region Four.
Some of the Cuban doctors stationed at the Leonora Cottage Hospital are also being accused of conducting private practices utilizing the hospital’s medical supplies.
It was noted that medications go missing from shelves and some patients who visit the hospital for follow-up treatment would reveal that a certain doctor visited their homes and performed certain procedures.
In relation to this, Dr. Ramsammy stated that the Cuban doctors should not be in private practice. He posited that patients should provide names of the doctors who are involved so that appropriate action can be taken.
The Minister further noted that the same persons who complain are the ones encouraging the situation.
In addition, the health sector has been trying to have accountability in health facilities but there is room for the misappropriation of medical supplies.
Patients have been complaining that there is a serious language barrier between the Cuban doctors and themselves. This has resulted in them depending on the Guyanese nurses for clarification.
Minister within the Ministry of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran stated that the Cuban doctors have been exposed to English classes to help them interact with patients but according to Cuban doctors they never attended any classes. Whatever English they know was learned in Cuba and it was expanded through interaction with patients.
Dr. Ramsaran further noted that the Ministry is pairing doctors so that both Cuban and Guyanese doctors work together. However, this cannot be done at the Leonora Cottage Hospital because there are seven Cuban doctors and only one Guyanese doctor.
However, one medical practitioner noted that despite the shortcomings, the Cuban medical staffers provide important services for Guyanese. It was emphasized that the 300 medical students scheduled to return home in 2012 would not be able to provide these services like these specialists