Amidst high referral numbersPublic Health Minister Volda Lawrence has said that the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) is expected to begin operating on a 24-hour basis before the end of the year.The Minister made the revelation in response to heavy criticisms from the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in relation to the high number of referrals, especially in the Maternity Unit.At Friday’s opening of the extension to the Maternity Unit of the GPHC, Head of the OBGYN Department, Dr Lucio Pedro, pleaded with the authorities to ensure that the regional hospitals, particularly WDRH, carry their weight.“We beg the regional hospitals to play their part in reducing this (high number of referrals). There were 82 referrals for October from regional hospitals, most of them from the West Demerara. There have been a lot of problems with this institution (WDRH), I understand that they close at 5pm (17:00h), and after that, all patients come to GPHC,” Dr Pedro said.He said the biggest challenge is to decrease the maternal and neonatal mortality rates, in keeping with Goals Four and Five of the Millennium Development Goals. He added that 606 babies have been delivered for the month of October.In response to the pleas, Minister Lawrence said that the MoPH is aware of the issues plaguing the institution.“The last couple of months we have been working at all levels to address these issues; and yes, the West Demerara (Hospital) operates at a lesser level after 4(pm). It is not closed, but it operates at a lower level because we do not have the technical staff, the lab technicians, and the X-ray technicians to work beyond that 8-hour period,” she said.She added that the MoPG has been working with the regional authorities and the Communities Ministry to ensure that the situation is addressed.“Work is being done, and before the end of this year, that hospital would be run on a 24-hour basis. We are working to ensure that we upgrade the primary health care institutions, to ensure that we do not have that high flow of patients being referred to the tertiary institutions,” Lawrence added.She added that the Diamond Diagnostic Centre has extended the creating space to house 5 beds for maternity purposes.“We just concluded consultation with the RDC and the NDC of Grove and Diamond and NDC of Haslington-Golden Grove. They have given consent for the collaboration between the Ministry of Public Health and the RDC to sign a MoU for the upgrading of the Diamond Diagnostic Centre and the CC Nicholson Hospital to regional hospitals,” she said.The MoPH is in the process of rehabilitating a number of hospitals, including the West Demerara Regional Hospital.