THE Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) is currently finalising plans for the construction of a hospital specifically designed to cater to the medical needs of women and children across Guyana. This was confirmed by Shaykh Moeen Ul-Hack, the organisation’s Director of Education during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle.
According to Ul-Hack, the project, which was conceptualised more than a decade ago, is being funded by the Islamic Development Bank at a cost of $200 million. When the idea of building a specialty hospital was first examined, the intention was to specially cater to patients in need of accessing dialysis at drastically reduced costs.
“Because during then, there was only one place at which dialysis was being done, and the cost was exorbitant,” Ul-Hack noted.
As the project continued to face several delays, stakeholders were afforded the opportunity to revisit and re-examine the project in its entirety. It was then decided that the establishment of a hospital for women and children is more needed at this time, since dialysis centres have been established in many areas across the country. The project plan was then redesigned and resubmitted to the bank.
“The bank has agreed and has informed us that the grant of half of a million U.S. dollars to build the hospital is still in effect, and that they have not cancelled this,” the CIOG executive said. He explained however that the grant would only cover construction of the building, and not the provision of medical equipment and other furnishing, which is expected to cost an additional $100 million.
In its initial stage, the hospital is expected to have at least 25 patient beds, along with eight private rooms, accompanied by the requisite in-patient and out-patient services, along with “all relating diagnostics and laboratory services that will be provided on site, with the best available technology and human resources, both local and foreign.”
The CIOG official affirmed also, that the hospital will be open to all Guyanese women and children, regardless of religion. “While we acknowledge the different cultural values in our country here, CIOG has been in existence since 1979, and the motto of this organisation is caring and sharing; and so, our charity is not restricted or confined to the Muslim community; rather, it extends and goes way beyond,” Ul-Haq said.
He said that even though the CIOG yearns to provide free medical care to all Guyanese in need, operating a hospital free of charge would not be feasible or sustainable. The hospital will therefore be run on a cost-recovery basis, with minimal prices being offered to all women and children seeking medical attention. “While persons will have to pay, we would not like the cost to be exorbitant, or else the objective would have been defeated,” Ul-Hack noted.
In addition to providing all maternal and gynaecological services, the hospital will also function in a manner that is sensitive to the religious and social preferences of patients. For instance, a woman would be afforded the opportunity to choose whether she wants to be attended to by female medical practitioners instead of a male.
“From a religious perspective, and from a female perspective, there are quite a number of women who would prefer being attended to by a female doctor, and so this was one of the factors that were considered when the hospital was envisioned by the CIOG,” the Shaykh posited.
Once operational, the landmark institution will be administered by an independent Board of Directors, which would include medical practitioners as well as representatives of CIOG. Guyana’s First Lady, Her Excellency Arya Ali has also been consulted on the project and indicated her eagerness to assist and be part of the revolutionary initiative.
“Also, we have a retired nurse at a hospital in Cleveland; the head of CIOG’s women’s arm and some businessmen…they comprise the current committee to ensure the construction of the hospital takes place,” Ul-Hack said.
INTENDED EXPANSIONS AND A REQUISITION FOR LAND
Asked to explain what had led to the lengthy delays, the CIOG executive explained that the process of securing permission to construct the hospital in Georgetown was an extensive one that required a series of submissions to and engagements with the Georgetown Mayor and City Council.
Initially, the intention was to utilise a plot of land located on Thomas Street, South Cummingsburg (next to the Green Acres Primary School). The property, owned by the CIOG, measures approximately 182 feet by 44 feet, which was eventually deemed unfit for a hospital intended to undergo massive expansions overtime.
“Firstly, it does not allow for parking, and since it is central Georgetown, there are other issues; also, it does not allow for expansion,” Ul-Hack noted.
He explained that given the great level of interest that the project has already generated, the CIOG moved ahead to engage the government with the hope of securing a larger plot of land, preferably on the outskirts of Georgetown. “This is so that we don’t have issues that some of these hospitals are currently facing in Georgetown. We are in the process of reaching out; hoping to get feedback very soon.”
Notwithstanding unforeseen challenges, Shaykh Ul-Hack is hopeful that the hospital could be established as early as year-end. “Once we acquire the land, the construction of the building shouldn’t take long. There may be some hold up with the furnishing, because we don’t have any monies earmarked for that, so we would be going back to the community for assistance for that,” the CIOG executive noted.
He is hopeful that the construction aspect of the project could be completed by the end of 2021. “A lot of time has already elapsed… the time for talking must end, and we must now move with it, God’s willing.”
Once operational, the CIOG hospital would add to the government’s efforts of pushing medical tourism. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), during its previous tenure in office, had attempted to pilot a specialty hospital. When the party lost power in 2015, the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) moved to scrap the project. The project is currently being re-examined by the PPP/C’s Irfaan Ali-led government.
Ul-Haq told the Guyana Chronicle that the establishment is CIOG’s way of fulfilling its civic responsibilities and religious duties. “It is to demonstrate the generosity of Islam through our participation in the delivery of affordable healthcare and to those in need of quality service,” he posited. He said that over the years, the CIOG has remained committed to serving the people of Guyana, especially the vulnerable and less fortunate. The organisation was formed on July 1, 1979, primarily focusing on the spiritual, social and economic advancement of Muslims throughout Guyana. Over the years, the body has evolved and expanded to assisting the wider multi-religious and multi-cultural society that characterise this dear land of Guyana.
“We have been involved with assisting persons directly and indirectly; financially, we have assisted the Guyanese community with monies for surgery to be performed locally at private hospitals, as well as facilitated travels, etc.”
Ul-Hack reflected on some of the recent undertakings of the organisation, which mostly supported the national COVID-19 response efforts. “We have participated with several organisations, including the U.S. Embassy and the GPHC to provide medical outreaches throughout the country. Recently, we distributed 800,000 masks; our job is to complement the efforts of the Government of Guyana, because we know that they cannot do everything, so whatever we can do on our side; it is out [of] civic responsibility and our religious duty,” the Shaykh posted.
Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime. cricketwindies.com/forum/