Opportunities and challenges in strengthening human resources for health in Guyana

Minister of Health of Guyana, the Honorable Dr Frank Anthony  visits PAHO

Washington D.C. 8 March 2023 (PAHO/WHO) – The Minister of Health of Guyana, the Honorable Dr Frank Anthony MP, recently visited PAHO Headquarters to meet with the new PAHO Director, Dr Jarbas Barbosa. Minister Anthony was also invited to a meeting organized by the Human Resources for Health Unit at the Health Systems and Services Department. Minister Anthony presented in this meeting his country's perspective and recent developments on Human Resources for Health in Guyana. 
Since 2021, Guyana has embarked in a reform process to expand its health system with a strong emphasis in improving both the first level of care and the hospital sector. These efforts include the construction and upgrade of health facilities in hinterland regions of the country where mostly disadvantaged and remote communities are located in Guyana. 
In parallel to these efforts, Guyana has started a process to increase the number of Human Resources for Health in the country, adopting initiatives to train and retain health workers. Important initiatives include the relaunching of the nursing education program in collaboration with the PAHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Development at the University of Sao Paulo and a substantial salary increase for all health workers in Guyana adopted in December 2022. 
For the implementation of the new nursing education program, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has decided to adopt a hybrid educational model, where students will be offered a mix of online and face to face modules. This will be accompanied by the creation of at least 8 regional nursing simulation centers, where nursing students will receive practical training. As a result, Guyana’s aims is to ensure that new nurses will be able to serve their home regions. 
Additionally, Guyana is strengthening the training of Community Health Workers and has several collaboration agreements with foreign universities, where Guyanese doctors are sent for specialized training. Upon their return, these new specialists have agreed to serve for the MoH for a specified time. 
Another important development to ensure the most efficient service provided by medical specialist, is the new telemedicine program just adopted by the country. This program will be expanded with the financial support of a recently approved loan from a multilateral development bank.
"With PAHO support, [Guyana] has developed a Package of Essential Health Services for Primary Health Care for their primary health care services, carried out last year," said Minister Anthony. 
For the implementation of these and other Human Resources for Health (HRH) initiatives, Minister Anthony expressed the interest of Guyana a continued PAHO’s technical cooperation in the area of HRH, capacity-building, and to explore a possible collaboration with PAHO’s Virtual Campus.
PAHO/WHO Representative to Guyana,  Luis Codina, thanked Minister Anthony on his remarks about the importance of the PAHO Technical Cooperation in Guyana. He mentioned the importance of the leadership the government of Guyana has taken to improve the health system benefiting all those in the country. Dr Codina, renewed PAHO commitment to support this process.  
"Everyone's realization in the importance of improving human resources for health as a result of the pandemic has further positioned PAHO to continue offering its technical expertise and support to the countries in the Americas towards elevating human resources for health in their policies and agendas to achieve resilient health systems for their populations," said James Fitzgerald, Director, Health Systems and Services.  

Benjamin Puertas, Chief, Human Resources for Health Unit, stated that Guyana's offer to become a Caribbean training hub to scale up the health workforce in the region, fits with one of the pillars of the Americas Health Corps Initiative to increase access and availability of qualified health workers in the Americas. 
The Americas Health Corps is a new, joint initiative between the USA and PAHO adopted at the IX Summit of the Americas in 2022. It aims at addressing the challenges in HRH the region of the Americas has been facing for several years. The goal of the initiative is to train 500,000 new health workers in the Americas in the next five years.  
The meeting concluded with a statement of Fitzgerald committing PAHO to continue supporting Member States to strengthen their human resources for health policies and initiatives to ensure resilient health systems for all the peoples of the Americas.