…Health Ministry launches probeAs a result of issues surrounding the shortage of critical drugs and medical and non-medical supplies within the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC), nurses attached to the medical institution on Thursday morning downed tools and staged a three-hour sit- in.During this time, approximately 50 protesting nurses sat in the Outpatient Department of the Hospital, while there was reportedly no replacement staff in place. The management of the LHC, which was reportedly unaware of plans toThe Linden Hospital Complexconduct the sit-in, later met with the staff in the Outpatient Department to address their concerns.According to LHC Public Relations Officer Toshanna Alicock, the Hospital’s CEO, Dr Farouk Riyasat reassured the staff that their issues were being addressed at the bimonthly Section Heads Meeting and management was pursuing all possible avenues to have the issues rectified.She said since management was unaware of plans to conduct the sit-in, it did not have the opportunity to put a skeleton staff in place at the time, which, she noted, was worrisome.Temporary fixOn Thursday afternoon, Alicock noted that a decision was made to temporarily acquire critical drug supplies. “At 2:30 pm, Management teleconferenced with the Honourable Minister of Public Health, Dr Volda Lawrence and Director of Regional Health Services, Dr Kay Shako to address the issue, and it was decided that the LHC will be acquiring supplies through Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) temporarily.“Representatives are currently on their way to Georgetown to uplift the first set of these supplies from GPHC,” Alicock noted, stressing that this was only a “temporary fix” until the previous system of acquiring drugs was straightened outNurses during the sit-in on Thursdaywith the Materials Management Unit (MMU) bond. She added that the drugs which were being acquired under the temporary arrangement fall under the critical drugs, pharmaceuticals, and medical and surgical supplies heading.The PRO further stressed that necessary drugs were unavailable from time to time at the bond and also unavailable for private purchase. “One of the issues that we’re having is the timely release of funds from the Ministry of Finance to purchase the critical drugs that we need. Though we do get drugs from the MMU, we are allotted a certain amount of money to purchase critical drugs. So, we’re having that hiccup.”The process of acquiring the funds for purchase, she said, is a lengthy one owing to the amount of information which is now required. Alicock related that LHC management would be meeting with the staff today to provide feedback on the decisions made so far. By then, she noted, the first set of supplies would have been received.Meanwhile, Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Regional Representative Maurice Butters, who met with the protesting staff, said they related frustration over the lack of work materials and facilities and, therefore, decided to conduct the sit-in. Butters pointed out that it was a “sad” situation. He said the staff, in speaking to the Hospital’s CEO on Thursday, would have raised concerns over these issues which they explained have been affecting them for months, adding that staff have cast blame on the Public Health Ministry.“They were very firm…that they made requisitions for these things, but they don’t get it…they voiced their disapproval of the way things are going and the amount of supplies which are available at the Hospital.”He said the Hospital’s CEO would have also related difficulties which management faced. “But their contention is, while the grass is growing, the cow is starving. Because they have to provide medical service to the people of this community, and if the supplies are not there, it means they cannot do their jobs properly. These people have been working under these conditions for quite a long time and they’ve been doing their best…but it would’ve meet a stage where they cannot go further,” Butters noted.The GPSU Representative added that staff were also aggravated over the failure of the Public Health Minister to meet with them to address their concerns, although a promise was made over a year ago. “The staff is saying they noticed she’s going to other hospitals and not visiting Linden.”He also noted that he would have received information that the Minister would meet with staff today following an additional request, adding that he was hoping for a positive response from the Ministry. However, the Hospital’s PRO indicated later on Thursday that she was unaware of the Minister’s plan to meet with staff today, but noted that management promised to contact her to have a meeting with staff some time in the future.She said management had initially planned to travel to Georgetown on Thursday, but teleconferenced the Minister instead, in an effort to find a temporary solution to the issues.But the Public Health Ministry said it was currently investigating the circumstances and addressing the issues which resulted in the LHC recording a shortage of medical supplies.According to a statement issued by the Public Health Ministry, during the period March 6 to March 21, medical supplies were ordered by the Linden Hospital from the MMU. On March 6, 16 of the 24 items requested were delivered, and on March 18, 91 of the 171 items ordered were received.While it is normal procedure for the Linden Hospital to purchase drugs and other medical supplies whenever there was a shortage, the Public Health Ministry notes, as a result of poor forecasting, all the money the Hospital possessed had already been spent during the first quarter of the year.As such, the Ministry has commenced the implementation of necessary measures to correct this situation. Presently, a number of containers which contain some key medical supplies are being cleared.