Georgetown, Guyana – (March 7, 2019) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, this morning, met with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Resident Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, where he committed to the resuscitation of the National Committee on Radiation Emergencies, which has been inactive for more than two years.
Dr. Adu-Krow, was accompanied by Ms. Petal Surujpaul, Medical Physicist at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and Dr. Zoila Payton, IPC Consultant in Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control.
Minister Harmon informed the team that while he will ensure that the Committee is revived and supported in whatever way possible, it must not become another talk shop or forum for inactivity.
“I think too many times when people want to waste time, they set up a Committee but this must never be the case with this one. People must work and things must get moving,” the Minister of State said.
In an invited comment, Dr. Adu-Krow, while welcoming Minister Harmon’s statement on the matter, said that his team has been advocating for the revival of the Committee, given the new sectors that are emerging in the country and the inherent risks therein.
“Sometimes we don’t think about these things until something catastrophic happens. God forbid we have spillage of radioactive materials, before we get help from overseas countries, we should be able to contain it and not only contain it but also prevent it and that is why we have met with Minister. We want him to put it in the limelight so that it can be revived again and they can do their work. We are pleased that Minister Harmon has given his full support on this,” the PAHO/WHO Representative said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Surujpaul explained that the Committee was formed back in 2015 for the management of radioactive materials. At that time, it was guided and advised by the Ministry of Natural Resources through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“We had several agencies and persons on that Committee that deal with radioactive sources in Guyana. After a while, the emphasis shifted from national coordination to emergency management only through International Health Regulations and that comes under the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and so we took a side step. Out of the requirements for the health regulations and several other activities and emphasis on cancer awareness, the need for legislation, monitoring, inspections, reinforcements and so on has come about; it is being done under EPA and MoPH but it is not umbrellaed or coordinated under one organisation nationally. So, because of that, the emphasis has now been reassigned to the National Committee,” she said.
Like Dr. Adu-Krow, Ms. Surujpaul said that the Committee is even more critical at this juncture of Guyana’s development, given the emerging sectors such as oil and gas and its potential risks to the environment and people through spills and accidents.
“Now we have more radioactive sources entering Guyana for the various sectors including mining and oil and gas and those are the ones with high activity levels and it is a lot more difficult to manage because it is being moved from one place to the other. With radiation, you can’t see or feel it; you don’t know you are feeling the effects of it, so it’s important now more than ever,” she said.