In light of recent reports that patients with infectious diseases are being forced to stay in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital, measures are being put in place to reduce such instances; however, Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton has stated that in order to effectively tackle the issue of overcrowding, the Georgetown Public Hospital needs to be extended.It was reported that patients with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) were forced to stay in the A&E Unit of the medical facility due to overcrowding; some were even forced to stay on the floor. Photographs taken at the hospital were also circulated on the Internet and it sparked outrage from the public.The Georgetown Public Hospital needs to be extended in order to eliminate overcrowdingThe proposed site for the GPHC’s annexDr Norton had responded saying that the issue would have been resolved in a timely manner, and while measures were taken to do so, he noted that in order to eliminate overcrowding at the hospital, the facility would need to be extended. “We have to some extent, resolved the overcrowded A&E Department by having a more efficient discharge system and making more beds available, but that Department and the whole hospital needs to be extended,” he stated.He explained that the Ministry is currently examining the options for the hospital’s extension, saying “We are more or less looking at creating another structure that will take off part of the hospital, for instance while we might practically say that we are still doing the Specialty Hospital, it does not say in any way that we are not building another structure. I am personally thinking about a maternal child hospital or an enhancement or annex to the Georgetown Hospital.”Norton disclosed that the annex the Ministry is hoping to have constructed would not be located in the vicinity of the GPHC. He revealed that they are considering utilising the space that was allocated for the construction of the Specialty Hospital, as works were already started on the land. “We have to look for another area, and we’re contemplating using the foundation of the Specialty Hospital that was supposed to be built,” he stated.It was on Thursday that Government, through Minister of State Joseph Harmon and subsequently the Public Health Minister, confirmed that it was seeking India’s position on the Specialty Hospital before a definitive course of action is adopted. Norton had explained that the discussions with the Indian Government will determine whether they will go ahead with the project using a new contractor or have it scrapped entirely, given all the troubles the project has faced.“There is a chance it might come off the table because that [Specialty] Hospital Project is not doing well with how it started and what’s supposed to be… The next step will now be for us to have direct contact with the Indian Government and decide whether it will continue with the loan or not,” he told Guyana Times.Earlier this month, Minister Harmon disclosed that the Government of India, which is funding the project via a Line of Credit, had indicated that a decision was taken to cease doing business with India-based Fedders Lloyd Corporation Limited, after the company was blacklisted by the World Bank until 2020 over fraud and corruption practices.The donor country had also expressed preference for a fresh tendering process to be conducted to select a new Indian-based contractor to execute the project.Last November, the coalition Government came under fire following the announcement that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fedders Lloyd to complete the controversial project that was left on hold after the Donald Ramotar Administration sacked and sued the first contractor, Surendra Engineering Inc, for failing to honour its obligations. Guyana is yet to recover close to $1 billion from that company.The APNU/AFC had justified the handpicking of Fedders Lloyd to complete the project, saying that the company was one of the original bidders in the 2012 tendering process but the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition had stated that the company was disqualified because of certain inconsistencies in its submission to the local Tender Board.While in Opposition, the APNU/AFC had strongly opposed the US$18 million Specialty Hospital Project and upon its assumption to office last year, decided to scrap the project. It said that the remaining US$13.8 million would be better served, if it is used to improve the country’s primary healthcare service by upgrading three hospitals across the country.However, the Indian Government had indicated that Guyana should go ahead with the construction of the Specialty Hospital and it will provide a separate loan for the primary healthcare project. To this end, Harmon disclosed on Thursday that this second loan will be made available soon. “We are advised that (the funding for the primary healthcare upgrading project) is awaiting the completion of certain governmental processes in India,” he stated.The three hospitals being considered for upgrade under the primary healthcare service are the Bartica Hospital, the West Demerara Regional Hospital and the Suddie Public Hospital.