President David Granger: Thank you. Dr. Segalla, Ministers of the Government, Dr. Singh, Dr. Neilan, members of the Cuban medical brigade and those Cubans who are here, not necessarily as part of the brigade but on their own account; nurses, fellow Barticians, ladies and gentlemen, members of the media.

I have a clear recollection – I don’t know why it is so clear in my mind – about December 1948. I was just a child of about three years old and I missed my mother and I kept asking for my mother and my dad held me up to the window and pointed across the way to the Bartica hospital. My mother had come here to deliver her eighth child.

I am the seventh, of course, and she was the sister to whom I referred in my remarks earlier today – that when she was about to die she asked her daughter to make sure her ashes were brought back to Bartica; and as I entered the compound I spoke to Dr. Segalla. I saw a vehicle there called ‘The Last Ride’; so I presume that’s the hearse; but I am familiar with the hospital at least over the last 68 years and I know the good work that it has been doing. And I would like to join the Minster of Public Health in expressing thanks to Dr. Segalla and also to Dr. Singh, Dr. Neilan, to the Cuban doctors, to the nurses and the staff who have been doing such an excellent job.

What has been taking place is part of the bigger picture, the bigger idea that we have – and Dr. Norton is quite aware of my concerns about child mortality; and he and I were on something of an odyssey at the beginning of this year. We are looking for some temporary facility and I said no matter what it costs there must be, sooner or later a national maternity hospital but this is one step in that direction; we want to aim at zero maternal deaths, zero – not just reducing the deaths of our babies, but zero. There should be no reason in 2016 why babies have to die.

What I am particularly proud about is the fact that this morning – this is my third ceremony – this morning we were celebrating the graduation of Bartica; 185 years old to the status of a town and, more important, is that Bartica should be a capital town, the capital of a part of this country which is bigger than The Netherlands.

Sometimes people on the coastland don’t seem to understand the complexity of administering a country the size of Guyana. Every single Caribbean country could fit into Guyana and this poses challenges for all of the services that need to be delivered, even though our population is very low with a density of 3.5 per square kilometre. We still have to treat every single citizen as a resident who is entitled … we want to ensure that no resident should have to leave his or her region in order to have access to the public services. And again, as Dr. Norton will tell you, he and I have campaigned literally from Region One to Ten and one of the problems we have found, even recently – we were in Region Nine together in the Rupununi – businessmen and women in Lethem have to travel to Suddie to register their businesses. It’s an incredibly bizarre state of public administration.

So I’ve been working together with the Minister of Communities to make sure that every capital town, one – that every region has a town which is its capital; and that is why I’m so happy that Bartica now has become a town. But Bartica, having become a town, must now possess all of those resources that residents of this great region need. So if you come from Kaikan or Paruima or Waramadong or Arau or any other part of this region you should not have to go further than Bartica. You should not have to go to Parika or West-Demerara Regional Hospital or even Georgetown; and I’m very proud of the work that Dr. Segalla has been doing and the team, the Cuban team that has been supporting him with their medical expertise, and the nurses, of course.
So all of this fits in together, fits into the great plan to have this region as a place where our residents, our citizens, our children could grow up in safety, in comfort and enjoy that good life. So, briefly, I’d like to say thank you to Dr. Segalla and your team; thank you Dr. Singh, Dr. Neilan, our Cuban compañeros thank you all of the nurses and the persons who support this institution. It’s all part of the development of our country, the development of this town and it’s all dedicated to giving our children a good life.

So thank you all and may God bless you.

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