The community of Debe is in mourning after beloved doctor and consultant at the Emergency Department of the San Fernando General Hospital succumbed to COVID-19 on Tuesday. Dr Dhiyan Mahabir, who spent his entire life serving the poor, often without charge, died around 1:55 am at the Intensive Care Unit of San Fernando General Hospital.
He had been there for two weeks after being brought to the hospital by a colleague, who found him ailing at home.
Speaking to Guardian Media, his brother Dr Vinod Mahabir confirmed that he died from COVID. Responding to reports that Dr Mahabir had never taken a COVID vaccine, even though he was a frontline worker, Vinod said, “I do not know if he was vaccine-hesitant. I can’t say if he was vaccinated. I really don’t know.”
He said two weeks ago, one of Dr Mahabir’s colleagues went to check on him after he failed to report for work. After finding him ailing, the colleague took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was placed on the High Dependency Unit and as his condition worsened he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit.
Vinod said Dr Mahabir was very devoted to his job and often neglected himself while he cared for others. “He was a voracious reader, an excellent student who did his speciality in emergency medicine Mount Hope at the University of the West Indies,” Vinod said.
He added, “My brother taught medical students who were doing their diploma in emergency medicine. In his office, he treated his patients without charge, especially those whom he knew from my father’s days.”
Vinod added, “He came from a family of seven siblings, four of us became medical doctors. My eldest brother was a chest specialist Dr. Deepak Mahabir who was a famous specialist in diabetes. He died early.”
Describing his brother as very charitable, Vinod said, “He loved the community he came from and would support people. They consulted him with every medical problem and he was also there if they needed financial assistance. He was always busy with his job.”
Dr Mahabir lived alone, had never married, and did not have children.
Meanwhile, another brother Dr Vashist Mahabir said he was proud of his brother’s accomplishments.
“We were all born in Gopie Trace, Penal and my brother devoted himself to caring for the people in our community. He set up practice in Debe and his primary interest was to provide compassionate care to the community. He always shared his knowledge and was committed to the training of younger physicians. He was an associate lecturer at UWI and an examiner,” Vashist said.
Meanwhile, residents of Debe said they were shocked at Dr Mahabir’s passing.
“He was a good man. Every time I go there he refused to take money from me. I was not the only one. People who were sick would go by him and he would make arrangements for them to get care at the hospital without charge,” resident Bisundaye Sookraj said.
Meanwhile, former medical director at the San Fernando General Hospital Dr Anand Chatoorgoon said, ” I shall truly miss him as he was always so helpful when I called on him to help expedite the journey of patients through the Emergency Department. And I would call him any hour of the day or night and he would answer his phone even when he was off duty.”
He added, ” Yes, he cared about the poor and did feel the pain and discomfort that some patients at the SFGH had to endure. He was a no-nonsense doctor who spoke his mind openly, he had a soft heart and would go beyond the call of duty to help the plight of the downtrodden and forlorn.”
In a Whatsapp message shared with Guardian, Dr Robin Sinanan offered condolences to the Mahabir family saying, “He was my friend, we worked in ED for over 20 years. He was right there as we struggled to improve the level of emergency care to patients.”
Funeral arrangements for Dr Mahabir have not yet been finalized
He is the third doctor to have died from COVID-19. Last May Dr Shival Sieunarine, 33, who worked in the Accident and Emergency Department of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex also died.
This was followed by the death of Dr Maniram Rampaul of Rio Claro, who also cared for people in his community without charge.
Reporter: RADHICA DE SILVA