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Sunday 19 May 2019
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Dr Persad moves mountains for women

Sanjivani Hospital the "MovieTowne" of healthcare in the East

Dr. Prakashbhan Persad and his wife, Sashtri cut the ribbon to officially open the Sanjivani Women's Hospital, assisted by their children, Dr Vashisht Persad and Dr Gyotti Persad.
Dr. Prakashbhan Persad and his wife, Sashtri cut the ribbon to officially open the Sanjivani Women's Hospital, assisted by their children, Dr Vashisht Persad and Dr Gyotti Persad.

The health issues of women are varied. So having all issues dealt with under one roof may certainly be a relief for many women.

Dr Prakashban Persad, a local obstetrician/ gynaecologist (ob/gyn) consultant, has realised his dream and acted on his strong belief that women need special care, with the opening of Sanjivani Women's Hospital at Wilson Street, St Augustine, last Saturday.

The name was particularly important to Persad, as was depicted in a mural in the reception area of the hospital. The painting shows Hanuman, one of the most celebrated and worshipped figures in Hinduism and a devotee of the Hindu god Rama, who, when given the task of finding the sanjivani plant to save the life of Rama's brother, Lutchman, was disappointed that he could not locate the plant.

Dr Prakashbhan Persad and his wife Sashtri, along with their children, Dr Vashisht Persad and Dr Gyotti Persad unveil the commemorative plaque marking the opening of the Sanjivani Women's Hospital, Wilson Street, St Augustine. PHOTOS BY ROGER JACOB

In his determination, Hanuman took up the entire mountain and carried it to Lord Rama so he could select the plant and save his brother's life. It was with this concept in mind and the determination to heal that Persad built and named this hospital, funded by him, at a cost of $50 million, to treat ailments affecting women.

After complaining about the system and the way in which women were treated, Persad said he took up the challenge of his now deceased friend, Dr Andy Bhagwandass, who told him, "If you don't like it, then build your own."

Just over one year later, the vacant land was transformed into what seems more like a lavish hotel. "It is now time to nurture this vision from its embryonic stage, nurture it and plan for it. We have high hopes, how this child will grow and develop," Persad said.

The reception area opened to a life-like floral scene on the ceiling, which is the theme for all the rooms in the hospital, including the delivery and recuperating rooms for mothers. These rooms also have walk-in, glass-enclosed showers and mini coolers.

"In other hospitals fathers go out to get some fast food, here all food will be catered for the patient and the family. Their every need is catered to," Persad added.

"A woman can wake up and find a lump. She can come here, see a doctor, get a mammogram, get an ultrasound of the breast, a breast biopsy, all done before the evening is done and she will get a diagnosis. We have everything."

Persad did not say what the cost would be, as he said this was not calculated at this point. But he stressed that the hospital is not about making money.

The Sanjivani Women's Hospital, Wilson Street, St Augustine

"When you go to a private hospital to work, at the end of the day, their focus is what makes the most money. When a woman comes to us to have a baby, it is a normal process, you can't bill much for it. If you have a Caesarian-section you are home within 24 to 48 hours. There are no fancy drugs or fancy equipment and general stuff can go very quickly, so the pocket margin is very low. Also the risk of delivering a baby privately is very high because of the legal climate.

"If anything goes wrong people blame the doctor so people shun away from it; even some of the older gynaecologists have stopped delivering babies because of the risk. You spend so much time and effort writing reports and going to hearings. The cost might be worth it some of the time, but it's very stressful and nobody wants to do it."

Persad said the hospital, built within a year, after a construction start in April 2017, was not set up to make a profit or even break even before the next five years.

"I have spoken to almost every ob/gyn on the East/West Corridor, no one has joined us because it comes down to, at the end of the day, one question. How much money are we going to make? If I invest my money how much am I going to get in return? My answer to that question? Nothing. If anybody is to make a profit it is not going to happen before four or five years. We are not set up to make a profit and therefore what we want to do and what I think we should do, is have a beautiful place to practise, but the hospital itself will not make much or any money at all."

Dr Prakashbhan Persad takes guests on a tour of the newly opened Sanjivani Women's Hospital. Among them, paediatrcian Dr Devanand Lakheeram and Dr Juliet Skinner of the Barbados Fertility Clinic. Photos by Roger Jacob
The offical launch of the Sanjivani Women's Hospital, Wilson Street St Augustine, Saturday, November 11, 2018. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.

He said it is frustrating that when undergoing such projects the support from the banking sector or the government is hard to come by. No one, he said, is willing to take the risk and no one has yet invested. Funding came out of pocket from Persad when no one wanted to take the risk and he would have it no other way.

He worked continuously and tirelessly to "bring the mountain to his patients". He said his children, Dr Vashisht Persad, an ob/gyn completing his degree in New York and his daughter, Dr Jyoti Persad, who is completing her degree in paediatric dentistry in the UK, are both willing to come back and work for their country.

The plan is that in ten years, Sanjivani should be a name that is associated with excellent care in women's health and paediatrics.

"If someone in St Lucia has problems with themselves or their baby they can say, let's go to Trinidad, to Sanjivani Women's Hospital because this is not Dr Persad's hospital, this is a hospital of TT. And if we bring in all the right people and specialists who can't do what they want to do in the public health system, we bring them in and nurture them and we will be second to none. It would be hospital that will create a big jump for medical tourism in TT.

"We care about women's health. Women's health care is not one of the things we do, but the only thing we do. We are not going to be doing anything half-heartedly. We are here to look after women and their children. I am not saying you cannot have appendicitis or a gallstone, but we are going to focus on what we do and do it as best as we can. We are not going to focus on who makes the most money.

"People go to the private hospital because the image of the public sector is so bad when it is not. Some go to some of the private hospitals and they are disappointed to see some of the old and used equipment that they have. You won't be getting that option here. So instead of the movie theatre Palladium in Tunapuna, we are going to be giving you MovieTowne."

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