75-year-old Bissoondai, of Patentia walked out of the Patentia Primary School all smiles yesterday, her hands full with free medication for her many ailments, including hypertension.
She was among the scores of residents from Patentia, Wales, and other nearby communities on the West Bank of Demerara who turned out for the free medical clinic put on by Guyana Watch, a non-governmental organisation made up of mostly overseas- based Guyanese that has been bringing a team of doctors to Guyana for the past 17 years.
Bissoondai, or “Aunty Finey” as she is known, said that she decided to go see the American doctors because at the local Good Intent clinic where she goes, the healthcare workers there ask her to go early, which she finds difficult to do at her age.
In addition, she said that even when she is able to make the time (08:00 h) the healthcare workers sometimes are not there. And when she manages to get attention, the medication she is given is only for “two marnin’ and it done.”
So every year, whenever she gets word that the Guyana Watch team would be in her area, she shows up and is able to get medication for a few months.
Surujwattie Singh, 57, like Aunty Finey, was in praise for the “good treatment” she received from the Guyana Watch doctors. She had a multitude of complaints, ranging from arthritis and hypertension to diabetes. In her words, she needs a “complete overhaul.”
She was thankful for the medication she received from the Guyana Watch team to keep her cholesterol level down, as she said she cannot afford to buy the tablets, since she is not employed and her husband, Ramjit Singh, also diabetic, works as a sluice attendant. Mrs Singh was also happy for the advice she got.
But it is not only the patients attending the clinic who find satisfaction. Emergency medical doctor Alice Choe, who works in New York, was convinced by her colleague Dr Craig Mochson to come to Guyana.
“It’s fulfilling to be able to do what I’m doing here. In New York no one appreciates the work you do,” she said, as she attended to a mother with four children.
In addition to the doctors, there are a number of volunteers assisting. One of them is Jeremy McLaughlin, a professional poker player, who learnt of Guyana Watch through Mr. Viktor Ramdin, a fellow poker player. He assists by screening the patients when they first come in, pointing them to the appropriate medical professional that will attend to them.
Emily, a scientist, like, McLaughlin is also in Guyana for the first time. Her role in the exercise is to assist visiting patients with finding the doctor best suited to handle their case.
The 34-year-old has a background in HIV research. She learnt of the Guyana Watch programme by “word of mouth”, being told of their own experiences by friends who were regular volunteers.
Vicktor Ramdin is on his 11th mission with Guyana Watch. A professional poker player and businessman, Ramdin said that he keeps coming back because of the “need to make a difference (in someone’s life)”, and to educate those whom he and the rest of the team encounter.
He added that by helping people to identify unknown health problems they may have, he and the other volunteers and doctors accomplish a lot.
Local volunteers are also needed whenever Guyana Watch mounts a mission. One of them is Mohamed Jameel, a driver. This is his third year running as a local volunteer for the Guyana Watch. He is a trained volunteer, focusing mainly on doing simple tests – diabetes tests, hypertension tests, etc. Jameel estimates that some 300 patients had been through the makeshift facility by midday yesterday.
Guyana Watch was established 17 years ago when a group of overseas colleagues and friends saw the need for health care in Guyana.
“Things were pretty tough in Guyana,” Tony Yassin, current President of the Guyana Watch, said.
Founding member Dr. Tara Singh also served as the president of the Guyana Watch, at the time comprising a 14-member team with only five doctors associated. After their first visit to Guyana, they had found their purpose necessary, and agreed to keep returning.
Seven clinics are planned throughout the country, running for some 10 hours a day. Doctors usually get involved with the team by answering bulletins placed in their respective hospitals by Guyana Watch.
Doctors of various fields – pediatrics, dentistry, and cardiology are among those making up the visiting medical staff.
The Guyana Watch team will be at the Meten-meer-zorg Primary School today.
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