Like it has done for oil firms, gov’t should grant tax exemptions to support dialysis patients

Dear Editor,

I was moved to write after reading a touching letter from Ms Romayne Atkinson, “a 37-year-old mother of two boys (ages seven and three)” and a “kidney failure patient on haemodialysis” (KN: 26/04/2019).

Ms Atkinson stated that she receives a meagre salary and has been receiving dialysis treatment at the Doobay Medical & Research Centre due the fact that it is the least costly service available. At the time she commenced treatment, alternative providers charged between a minimum of $15,000 and a           maximum of $38,000 per session. She noted, “Over the years, costs per session at the centre have been fluctuating between $9,000 – $12,000 and the current cost per session is $9,000.”

Although she refers to President Granger’s treatment in Cuba for cancer, her letter is without rancour or envy. She wrote, “I admire the courage and strength that you have displayed throughout this time, that I am sure, is difficult not just for you but for your immediate family, so I say continue the good fight on the road to a complete recovery. Unfortunately for me and many of the kidney failure patients, we are not privileged to afford the luxury of seeking oversees treatment as you are. As it is, many of us cannot afford the haemodialysis treatment that is necessary for our survival…this letter is an appeal to you to be afforded an equal and/or similar opportunity to survive a little longer so that I can see my boys become productive citizens of this dear land of ours.”

In her letter, she offered high praise to the centre noting, “Doobay Medical Centre has been providing an exceptional service to its patients. This Centre has helped many kidney failure patients in many ways…Unfortunately, beginning May 1, 2019, the cost will once again increase to $12,000, and patients will no longer benefit from free and or reduced costs per sessions…Patients including myself have been informed that due to the high taxes and duties that the centre have to pay to import the materials/products necessary to carry out the dialysis treatment, and the non-existence of tax exemptions, they are facing difficulties to cover these high costs and so we the patients are forced with the ripple effects of same.”

Before concluding her lengthy letter, Ms Atkinson offered a number of excellent suggestions. In a letter (KN: 30/04/2019), founder of the Centre, Dr Budhendra Doobay expressed his thanks to Ms Atkinson for her letter, and supported many of her suggestions. He acknowledged, “The Ministry of Health is considering opening up centres in New Amsterdam, Essequibo and Linden in the near future. This will be a great blessing for the residents in those areas.”  

Dr Doobay also appealed for help for the centre from the Guyanese community and stated, “Mr. Sattaur Gafoor heard about the patients’ plight and he decided he will cover the shortfall which is $2M Guyana dollars per month from May to December. It is only because of his generous support patients will continue to pay $9,000 over this period. Mrs Ameena Gafoor contributes to the work of the centre so patients can be dialysed in a timely manner.” He noted also, “To facilitate our patients further, we will start Dialysis in Georgetown soon so that patients can access Dialysis without incurring further transportation cost.”

Eusi Kwayana, in recalling his visit to Guyana and the centre in 2014, wrote, “This centre was (is) a standing and full-time, full-blown accomplishment contributing in a special way to the right to life” (SN: 7/10/2014). As for me, I grew up in Annandale and I am aware of the excellent work of the centre. I believe that not only should Dr Doobay and the Gafoors be lauded for their work to help dialysis patients but government should take immediate steps to provide assistance.

On April 27, 2019, Stabroek News (Order laid for oil firms’ tax exemptions) reported that an Order to exempt Tullow Guyana BV and Eco (Atlantic) Guyana Inc from various taxes was laid in the National Assembly on February 14th, 2019. The article stated, “the PSA with Tullow Guyana BV et al specifies that the company shall pay no tax, no value-added tax, duty, fee, charge or other impost on income derived from petroleum operations or in respect of any property held, transactions undertaken or activities performed for any purpose authorised under the PSA. The exemptions include import duties on items listed in the PSA…”

With such tax exemptions granted to a multi-million dollar company, I believe the least government could do for the unfortunate dialysis patients at the Doobay Medical & Research Centre is to move immediately to grant tax exempt status to the centre for the importation of material/supplies, and/or to make a substantial annual grant to the centre to help alleviate the financial hardship of the suffering patients. I hope President Granger heeds the plea of Ms Atkinson on behalf of herself and fellow dialysis patients and take prompt action.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Hergash    

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