Georgetown, Guyana – (July 30, 2020) President David Granger, this morning, commissioned Guyana’s first Infectious Diseases hospital at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, which will serve as the premier institution for the quarantining and isolation of persons, who have been infected with the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and other infectious diseases.

Speaking at a simple ceremony, President Granger noted that today marks 141 days since Guyana recorded its first case of the disease, which has tested public health systems globally. This new reality, he therefore noted, requires that public health systems increase and strengthen their capacity to address sudden and unexpected outbreaks of communicable diseases by providing more hospital beds, improved protective gear for medical personnel, better communicable diseases surveillance and specialized hospitals, such as the Infectious Diseases hospital.

He said this day will be etched in Guyana’s medical memory as the day when the country demonstrated its determination to defeat this deadly disease not for a day, or a year, but for the coming decade and beyond.

“We have, today, made an irreversible decision to employ our personnel and deploy our resources to protect our population from disease and to promote public health. Today, life on earth is confronted with one of humanity’s gravest health challenges for more than one hundred years. The COVID-19 pandemic – an event which no country anticipated and for which few could pretend to have been adequately prepared – has brought the death and disease completely unanticipated to millions of persons in every continent,” he noted.

He said the establishment of this Infectious Diseases hospital represents an essential and urgent investment in safeguarding people’s health, not just against the coronavirus pandemic but also against future communicable epidemics.

“Your Government has crafted a national response to the pandemic. This institution is an essential element of the emergency response. Government recognised the urgency of having an institution, which could be dedicated exclusively to providing treatment to coronavirus patients.

The model which we developed in the early days of the pandemic requires us to have the capacity and the capability to achieve accommodation of 197 ICU patients at any one time,” he said.

The Head of State noted that this institution is strategic and will be used primarily for COVID-19 patients but, eventually, will become a fully-specialized communicable diseases hospital. He said that it is an important step forward towards protecting citizens from epidemic disease and it is always preferable for infectious patients to be isolated away from the general hospital population so as to reduce the risk of transmission, and to ensure a better environment for treatment and recuperation.

The President urged citizens to practice personal measures to protect themselves, such as, avoiding gatherings of more than five persons, visiting sick persons, coughing and sneezing in the presence of other persons, touching other persons and adopting the habit of washing of hands frequently and thoroughly.

“We must continue to observe the rules of social distancing, by wearing face masks and practicing good hand hygiene. We will win the fight against the COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Exercising personal and social responsibility will help keep our people safe. Human lives are our most precious resource. Human health is being threatened by the increasing incidence of transnational infectious diseases. These diseases, unfortunately, are not expected to disappear completely. The country’s public health systems, therefore, must never be found deficit in responding to emerging communicable diseases,” he noted.

President Granger used the opportunity to commend and express gratitude to all frontline workers especially doctors, nurses and other professionals in the medical field, who he said have demonstrated their care for humanity in such a difficult period.

“Guyana’s doctors, nurses and other health personnel have been on the frontlines of the local efforts to combat the COVID-19 threat. The nation owes these courageous men and women a debt of gratitude for their professionalism and humanity during this very difficult period. Citizens have had to make personal sacrifices in order to contribute to the national effort to suppress the spread of the pandemic. I thank all Guyanese everywhere for the sacrifices which they have made. Guyanese can be assured that no effort will be spared, now or in the future, to protect the nation’s health,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Health, Mrs. Volda Lawrence, in her remarks, said the facility was necessary. She noted that while there are 27 hospitals countrywide, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), the only referral hospital, provides all services and has only one Intensive Care Unit (ICU) catering for critical care and respiratory and cardiac support. The other hospitals, she said, lack intensive care facilities especially in the area of respiratory support, which is imperative in the fight against COVID-19 complications.

“Additionally, the District and Regional hospitals only provide basic inpatient services accounting for 64 percent of the beds in the country. Our tertiary institution, the GPHC, has about 500 beds and that represents approximately 36 percent of all the beds in country, with an occupancy rate of 99 percent. This situation left us in a quandary. Due to these challenges, it was deemed necessary and beneficial to have a designated facility for the surges in cases and for the control and prevention of future epidemics and pandemics,” she said.

This facility, she said, should be able to remove the constraints from the GPHC and the District and Regional hospitals that do not have the capacities and capabilities to address infectious diseases. The facility can cater for 200 staff, 190 beds and boasts a kitchen, incinerator, surveillance unit, pharmacy, isolation unit, quarantine unit, admin office and Health Emergency Operations Centre, among other features.

Dr. William Adu- Krow, Country Representative of the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) said he is confident that this facility will improve the quality of infrastructure and services to patients and staff as the world continues to battle COVID-19.

He noted that over the last two decades, Guyana has recorded at least ten occasions on which the need for a designated health facility to combat infectious diseases was identified. Dr. Adu- Krow noted that while such a facility has been long overdue, he is happy that it has finally materialised.

Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Jordan was also present at the ceremony.