Cabinet approves $6M in payments for medical treatment for Fazil Azeez

Cabinet has given its approval for two payments, totalling almost $6 million, for the medical treatment of former magistrate Fazil Azeez, who was shot in the back in 2015, in Cuba.

Neither payment was made public.

According to documents seen by Stabroek News, Cabinet approved US$14,224 on June 16, 2017, and US$15,000 on September 26, 2017, to cover the cost of stem cell procedures.

Azeez, 65, sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of the shooting and as result he has great difficulty walking.

Both of the Cabinet decisions, labelled secret, resulted from memorandums submitted by Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence and were signed by Minister of State Joseph Harmon. The documents carry a Ministry of the Presidency letterhead and the ministry’s stamp is affixed.

Fazil Azeez

According to the latter decision, it was noted that Cabinet agreed at its meeting on September 26 that that US$15,000 payment for medical treatment would be the final payment by the Government of Guyana.

Questions have been raised for a number of years, particularly under the previous PPP/C administration, about how the government decides which appeals for medical assistance should be granted and to what extent. Under the PPP/C there had been an outcry after revelations about amounts that had been spent from state coffers for several government officials.

In a letter to Lawrence, dated August 28, 2017 and seen by Stabroek News, Azeez had appealed for additional funds, while noting that his “present medical status is in the balance because without the cell therapy my chance of walking again is dubious.”

Azeez explained that he had to “tone down” his rehabilitation due to the fact that the tissue around his knees became inflamed and swollen due to the rigorous nature of the physiotherapy. The letter was penned after he would have returned from Cuba.

Attached to the letter was a copy of the official evaluation of the rehabilitation programme prepared by “La Pradera” medical team. Also attached was a preliminary estimate for stem cell surgery at the Institute of Hematology and Immunology, where he was sent on recommendation of the Neurological Rehabilitation panel at La Pradera.

Azeez explained that he was examined by an Orthopaedic Specialist, who performed stem cell implants and recommended that he return in October (the current month) to do the procedure.

Azeez stated that at that point he did not have the additional funds required to cover the cost of the stem cell procedure. Based on a quotation prepared by a doctor, the total cost of the medical services for Azeez is US$12, 963. Aside from the surgery, other services the cost will cover are 20 days hospitalisation in a private room, including food and nursing care, and his companion’s accommodation and food.

In the letter, Azeez stressed that it was only while in Cuba that he “realized the importance of this more advanced treatment to my overall recovery.”

In this regard, he appealed to the minister for her “compassionate consideration,” while mentioning that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo recently visited him at his Kitty home and had indicated that he would discuss the case with her.

Azeez had gone to a construction site at Eccles on April 25, 2015, to pay workers when he was confronted by a lone gunman.

He resisted and was shot to his abdomen by the armed man, who escaped after persons rushed out upon hearing the gunshot, the police had said in a statement on the shooting.

Azeez had served as General Manager of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation before pursuing law. He was later presiding magistrate at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court, the Leonora Magistrate’s Court and also sat at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.

Shelton George was arrested in February this year and later charged with attempting to murder Azeez. George, who was confined to a wheel chair, was found dead in his cell at the Lusignan Prison on August 22.

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