… says patient complaints will be investigatedGovernment is getting tough on health centre staffers who have been turning away patients because of alleged drug shortages. Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence has made it clear that centres can always call the Public Health Ministry and request supplies of drugs.Public Health Minister Volda LawrenceAsked on Monday what she was doing about reports of patients being turned away, Lawrence was adamant that this practice needs to be brought to an end. According to the minister, such complaints are being investigated at internal and external levels.She said that various measures, including increased impromptu visits and regular check-ins with centres, are being implemented by the Ministry of Public Health.“Whenever we get a complaint, we investigate immediately. When the person has been told that there is no drug or medical supply, we also investigate internally, to see whether a request was made, and where that was requested, or when was the last time they (were) supplied. No centre should be saying they don’t have anything,” Lawrence declared.“They can pick up the phone (and) call the next centre or the hospital within their district,” Lawrence pointed out. “That is how it works, but some staff are not doing that. So we have some staff who are designated to call up various institutions to ensure that they have the critical drugs, these medical supplies, and we have instituted a lot of impromptu visits.”The issue of shortages of various medications has been raised throughout Guyana at various intervals. As recently as in April, this issue prompted staff at the Linden Hospital Complex to stage a sit-in protest. According to LHC Public Relations Officer Toshanna Alicock, the Hospital’s CEO, Dr Farouk Riyasat, had reassured the staff that their issues were being addressed at the bi-monthly section heads’ meeting, and management was pursuing all possible avenues to have the issues rectified.The same issue occurred at one of the public hospitals in East Berbice, Region Six.Just over a day after this episode, Lawrence had announced that the Public Health Ministry is modernising delivery systems to address this sore point. That included the hiring of a consultant who has worked with The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a plan for the retrofitting of Guyana’s medicine and medical supplies distribution system.