By Sharmain Grainger
Who really can profess to be a leader in health care delivery? While there are quite a few persons who can be so labelled for their pioneering and outstanding work, today we at Kaieteur News have opted to zero in on one who has had decades in this realm.
His name is Dr. Budhendra Doobay, and he is nothing less than an outstanding medical practitioner who has been so dedicated to saving lives, that our pages can scarcely contain his achievements. This is especially since even as he matures in age, he is becoming even more of a visionary, embracing an end game that is designed to see Guyanese being able to benefit, not only from even more advanced health care services, but crucial advice that could ultimately help to save their lives.
By pioneering the Doobay Dialysis Centre back in 2011, he is credited with being the first to offer many renal failure patients low-cost dialysis, a feat that has not since been attempted by any other local facility, aside from the free, but limited [dialysis] service at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC].
In fact, word has it that even persons living abroad have been seeking after this near-impeccable service at the Annandale, East Coast Demerara facility which has since morphed into a full-fledged Medical and Research Centre, with an increasing array of health services being offered. Dr. Doobay has also been reaching out to the Public Health Ministry to help expand the reach of first class health care services to the population.
But from whence did this outstanding medical practitioner – who seems bent on helping to save as many lives as possible – come?
The eldest of six children, born on August 26, 1940 to the late Pandit Ramsahoi and Jasodra Doobay, Dr. Doobay was raised on a section of the very lots which currently house the Medical and Research Centre he founded.
He remembers attending the Buxton Congregational School back in the day, and to this day, he even has a recollection of some of the teachers who taught him, the likes of Mrs. Douglas, Mrs. Weatherspoon, Mr. Foster and Mr. Payne. But by the time he attained the age of 10, Dr. Doobay amidst a chuckle recalled, “my father decided to send me off to ‘town school’.”
‘Town school’, he explained, simply meant a school in the capital city of Georgetown, which was quite a major change for a boy raised in rural Guyana who, barefooted, was accustomed to trekking through muddy dams and bushy paths to get to school. But those days came to an end when he got enrolled at the British Guiana Educational Trust.
“I never wore shoes before, so that was the first time I was going to wear shoes,” Dr. Doobay confessed, even as he reminisced on how, “my feet were corned and sore after my first day of school.”
At the Georgetown School, he remembers his teachers being Randall Cheeks and Crow Alleyne. He completed Senior Cambridge examinations there, after which he moved on to Queen’s College where he was exposed to the sciences. Soon after completing his secondary level school, the young Doobay was on his way to the University of the West Indies to undertake studies in Medicine. In 1965 he graduated with honours in Surgery and went on to practice a bit in Jamaica, and then in Boston, United States, owing to the fact that his father was sick and needed medical attention that was available there.
AN OUTSTANDING SURGEON
Later Dr. Doobay travelled to England where he completed his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, a professional qualification to practice as a senior surgeon. Well qualified, he returned to his homeland in 1972, practicing as a Consultant Surgeon.
In fact he is credited with doing the first heart operation in Guyana. Interestingly enough, his first three patients were all expectant mothers whose heart valves were too narrow to their detriment. “Their food was backing up into their lungs, if they weren’t operated on, either they would have died, or they would have lost their babies,” Dr. Doobay recalled.
All three of the procedures, Mitral Valvotomy, were successful, and Dr. Doobay, as a smile formed on his face, remembered that two of the women, who gave birth to boys, decided to name them after him.
Having built an outstanding reputation for himself, Dr. Doobay decided to travel to Toronto, Canada, which has since been his adopted home, to expand his knowledge base by completing a Fellowship in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. This allowed him the opportunity to practice there as a Cardiac and Vascular Surgeon.
But even as he evolved as an outstanding surgeon, Dr. Doobay did not forget the land of his birth. In fact, he recalled returning on quite a few occasions. It was on one such occasion that he learnt about the dilemma that many renal failure patients were faced with. According to Dr. Doobay, not only did he learn that the average renal failure patient could not afford too many sessions of life-saving dialysis, but that when that patient’s money was exhausted, he or she was left to “go home and die.”
It was this daunting revelation that awoke a passion in Dr. Doobay, who decided to establish the not-for-profit Doobay Dialysis Centre, which provided clinics to renal failure patients in need of dialysis, at a subsidized cost.
Dialysis is the process of removing excess water and toxins from the blood of people whose kidneys have become impaired.
“We started with six machines, now we have 40 machines; we started with two patients, now we have 100 patients,” said Dr. Doobay as he reflected on how his vision to help save lives has been expanding over the years.
In fact, he recalled that while the Dialysis Centre was first able to offer patients dialysis at a cost of $15,000 – which was less than half of the cost that they were paying at a private facility – support from government had seen it even being able to further slash the price to $6,000.
“This was because we were getting help with duty concessions, no VAT, and government was even giving us some consumables at the time,” Dr. Doobay recounted. However, this level of support has since been stopped, which has since forced the facility to push its dialysis cost back up to $9,000.
“We are trying to keep the price as low as we possibly can, but it is very costly for us,” said Dr. Doobay, as he expressed optimism that government will resume its support which will ultimately be to the benefit of those who can barely afford to meet the weekly costs of dialysis. But if patients are unable to pay, they are never turned away, Dr. Doobay confided.
The efforts of the Centre are supported by a number of individuals including Board Members: Sattaur and Ameena Gafoor, and Mohamed Najab.
“If we don’t do this, some of these patients will die,” said Dr. Doobay, who explained that in order to ensure that patients throughout the country have ready access to this crucial service, the Doobay Medical Centre had helped the GPHC to set up its own dialysis Unit for acute patients and has been in talks to even reach Berbice and other regions.
But even as he continues to strive to meet the dialysis needs of patients nationally – as many are unable to find donors to facilitate kidney transplants that could help to greatly improve their quality of life – Dr. Doobay has been putting in place measures to offer even more health care services to Guyanese.
“I would like to see patients with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure being treated properly, and help to reduce the scourge of non-communicable diseases [NCDs]. We are offering free blood sugar tests to patients and free blood pressure testing…this is a humanitarian thing for us and it seems that many people who need the service we offer, they think because we are doing it for cheap or free, the value is less, but we can assure people we offer nothing but high quality service here,” Dr. Doobay passionately quipped.
As he turned his attention to the need for a culture change in the society, Dr. Doobay pointed to the fact that even if conditions are genetic, efforts can be made to minimize the impact of non-communicable diseases.
“If people stop eating too much salt, their blood pressure will go down, but many people don’t want to do that…and what many people don’t accept is that getting medicine for things like diabetes is not the management of the disease.” “Management means stopping the body from wanting to use insulin and to do that you have to stop eating too much things like bread, roti, potato and dhall,” Dr. Doobay shared. He, however, added, “People need to know that fish is very good for them, not meat, fish…fish has omega three, and that is very good, but some people conclude if they can’t get certain foods it is better for them to die.”
Unless people start to accept simple lifestyle changes, they will continue to be victims of NCDs which are increasingly claiming more lives, Dr. Doobay asserted. In fact he observed that while back in the day it was the older folks who suffered from NCDs, “these days little children are being pre-diabetic because they are given all the coke and the sugar water to drink at school, and this is very bad.”
The medical practitioner went on to point out that it isn’t always a surgery that is the solution when someone develops a heart blockage. “In certain cases you must have surgery, but not always, because you can manage some of them. If you change your diet and lifestyle…lose weight, you don’t have to have surgery. People need to know that some of these surgeries are only a temporary solution, it is not curative…people have to understand that nothing beats diet and exercise…the curative solution is always lifestyle changes,” insists Dr. Doobay. He certainly lives by what he preaches.
While helping to save lives will forever remain his primary life goal, Dr. Doobay, a father of three children, all of whom have followed his footsteps into the field of medicine, is very involved in religious activities in Toronto, Canada, and other humanitarian work. He lives by the motto: “everything does not always come your way how you want it, but you have to approach everything the same way…no matter what the obstacles are, you can either go around it or jump over it, but it must not impede progress.”
Although he has been the recipient of many accolades for his dedication to helping to make other people’s lives better, today we at Kaieteur News name Dr. Budhendra Doobay our ‘Special Person’ of the week.
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