The Ministry of Public Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection and the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) held a one-day workshop today, with stakeholders to draft a strategic plan for elderly care.
The plan which is being developed will govern the management and outline necessary recommendations in care for the elderly. The plan will take into consideration a number of measures including the training of staff, and improvement of infrastructure and other services to enhance the care provided.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Karen Cummings, speaking at the workshop held today, at the Grand Coastal Hotel, East Coast Demerara, said that elderly citizens being part of the country’s human capital must be acknowledged and therefore, attention must be accorded them.
Dr. Janice Woolford, Family Health Consultant, Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation PAHO/WHO
“At the Ministry, we are committed to delivering the best quality public health care and public health care services to everyone living in Guyana, including the elderly. Preserving the wellbeing and quality of life of our seniors must be handled with the utmost priority as we continuously explore more strategic pathways to maximise and enhance the value of public health care we provide as a Ministry to this very important cohort of the citizenry,” Minister Cummings explained.
Consultant to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and Ministry of Public Health on Elderly Care, Dr. Pedro Ponse said that it is necessary to have such a plan since there is significant growth of the elderly population in countries around the world.
Dr. Ponse said, “All countries need to have special programmes for health care of the elderly mainly in these days where the population, the elderly population has been growing, and in our case we don’t have a specific implementation programme as yet, and it is necessary that we start with something. The presentation of the ministries and PAHO is to try to see how it can be an increased programme for better health in general, especially in taking care of the elderly that is crucial.”
The collaborative effort between the government ministries and PAHO/WHO focuses mainly on providing effective primary health care for the ageing population which will improve their self-care ability, encourage healthy living, and strengthen family support, which consequently minimises illness and disability.
Abike Benjamin-Samuels, Deputy Director of Social Services, Ministry of Social Protection
PAHO/WHO recently concluded a situation analysis with the Ministry of Public Health. This analysis highlights some loopholes, as well as some areas requiring special attention in elderly care. Data has revealed that some areas require immediate intervention.
Dr. Janice Woolford, Family Health Consultant at PAHO, listed some of the issues that must be taken into consideration when drafting the plan. “We look in terms of training care persons, health care providers, health professionals looking as well at meeting the mental health needs of older people; these are some other areas of priority action. Providing appropriate services for older persons with disabilities, providing care and support for the care givers preventing neglect and abuse which is still very current in elderly population looking at violence also in older people.’
Deputy Director of Social Services, Abike Benjamin-Samuels said that the Ministry of Social Protection has been contributing to geriatric care, training exercises, infrastructure, health and fitness among other undertakings to facilitate a more robust elderly population.
In 2016, the Ministry developed minimum standards for elderly residential facilities. These standards encourage persons working in these facilities to improve the quality of care provided to senior citizens. These standards also serve as guidelines, ensuring that the best health care for seniors is promoted while continually striving to increase standards.
“Over the years, elderly residential facilities have been operating unregulated in the absence of guidelines which would have been provided through the development of minimum standards for such facilities. In many instances this has resulted in our seniors being housed in derelict structures, subjected to abuse by caregivers, fed meals that do not cater to their dietary/nutritional needs and deprived of access to medical care” Benjamin-Samuels noted.
Minister Cummings suggested that through the establishment of an elderly health strategic plan, seniors living in Guyana will be able to age with dignity, maintain their independence if possible, play active and valued roles within society, and have their rights respected and upheld.