Jaiwantie Bacchus, April 25, 1954 - March 17, 2007 Obituary
Stabroek News
April 8, 2007

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Jaiwantie Bacchus, née Narine, proprietress of Medi-Care Pharmacy and former President of the Guyana Pharmacists Association, died on March 17, aged 52.

Jaiwantie Bacchus was a compassionate and charitable person who seemed more suited to the tender ministrations of health care than to the hard-nosed world of commerce. That she was able to combine the charm of a solicitous nurse with the grit of a successful manager of one of the largest pharmacies in the country was a measure of her mettle.

As the persuasive President of the Guyana Pharmacists Association, moreover, it was a triumph of will to win acceptance for Guyana's bid to host the 25th Conference of the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists in Georgetown in August 2005, ahead of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Although already stricken by cancer which would eventually shorten her life, Jaiwantie Bacchus saw the conference as the cynosure of her career not as her swan song. She knew that Guyanese pharmacists only rarely attended these critical conferences largely because of the high cost of travel. Her ambition was to bring the conference to Georgetown not out of personal pride but simply to seize the opportunity to expose local pharmacists to international dialogue which would bring them abreast with modern changes and deepen their professionalism.

It was more than the highlight of her presidency. Hosted by the Guyana Pharmacists Association and sponsored by the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists and the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association, the conference assembled more than 100 delegates from 20 countries. The conference theme, 'Building Bridges of Cooperation for Superior Health and Human Services,' expressed her own philosophy perfectly.

Jaiwantie Bacchus's core belief was that the quality of health care depended not on an élite corps of a few highly-qualified experts but on the existence of a larger health-care team of which pharmacists were integral members. They were part of an evolving profession, involved not merely in dispensing drugs but in playing a role in diagnosing, treating and caring for patients. She was convinced of the need for pharmacists to be more than shopkeepers; she strove to help others to better health.

It was this vision of her profession that propelled Jaiwantie Bacchus to play a pivotal role in the resuscitation of the Guyana Pharmacists Association and in participation in the activities and conferences of the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists. This led her to join the original committee that published the association's first journal, Omni die, in June 1996. Her love of pharmacy, combined with her penchant for public service, prompted her alongside her husband to produce and sponsor the live television programme 'Consumers Health Watch' on NCN. Towards the end of her life, she was to become something of a TV personality with the screening of those educational health care programmes.

Her commercial success, also, was as much the result of her reputation for sincerity built up over the nearly three decades during which she practised her profession, as of her business acumen. As a pharmacist in the 1980s, Jaiwantie Bacchus was employed to manage the state-owned Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation's pharmacy in Alexander Street, Kitty. But those were days of economic depression when most essential goods, including imported foodstuff and pharmaceuticals, were insufficient or unavailable. Her branch became an oasis of supply amidst the desert of scarcity as she struggled to share few goods among many customers.

Her move from public corporation to private enterprise brought along a loyal clientele which did not forget her goodness or forsake her business. Her reputation for charity had become legendary and, not surprisingly, the beneficiaries of her bounty in her new business were to become legion.

It would be easier to count the charities that never asked for her assistance than those that received it. The Help and Shelter organisation; Lifeline Counselling Services; National AIDS Programme Secretariat; Guyana Red Cross Society and various Miss Guyana contestants all received financial or material assistance at one time or another. That was not all; her Medi-Care Pharmacy seemed not to tire of sponsoring floats for the Mashramani festival; patronizing races in the Kennard's Memorial Turf Club's horse race programmes; participating in the US Embassy's Family Health Fairs; and presenting medical supplies to the Venezuelan Embassy to help flood and mudslide victims in that country, and more.

With her husband Carl Bacchus's Pharmagen Enterprises, Jaiwantie Bacchus's Medi-Care Pharmacy became the first private sector agencies to enlist in the war on bad manners campaign run by the Guyana Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, conducting customer care sessions for various categories of their staff.

Jaiwantie Bacchus was born in Vergenoegen village, East Bank Essequibo, on April 25, 1954, the second of nine children. She attended the nearby Philadelphia Church of Scotland School and the Zeeburg Secondary School, six kilometres away, where she wrote her O levels.

Unable to pursue her childhood ambition of studying medicine because of her parents' poverty, she started to teach at the Vergenoegen Government School. But her heart was not in pedagogy. She quit after two years to study for the diploma in pharmacy at the University of Guyana and that changed her life. She not only entered a profession that she cherished, but married her campus classmate. As managing director of Pharmagen Enterprises, her future husband would become her business partner as well.

After graduation, she spent nine years at the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation. She left to establish what was little more than a booth called Medi-Care Pharmacy in the Fogarty's Department Store building in Water Street and soon was able to rent Mohan Persaud's building a block away in Robbstown. Today, Medi-Care Pharmacy in Hincks Street has become one of the biggest and busiest in the country with branches blooming in New Market Street, Cummingsburg and Henrietta, Essequibo.

Her Alexander Street customers, many of them women, formed the loyal core of the clientele there. That, undoubtedly, was part of the secret of her success. For her, service was less about the right price than about correct advice; less about profit than about professional responsibility and the chemistry between pharmacist and customer.

But although Jaiwantie Bacchus's achievements helped to break down barriers to the advancement of women in the fields of business and pharmacy, she was no firebrand feminist. Whatever resistance she might have faced from elements who were hostile to her concept of the role of pharmacists, she met the challenges with energy and courage.

A devout Christian and an active member of the Methodist Church, Jaiwantie Bacchus is remembered by the clergy and congregation with affection and respect. The church's touching tribute: "Her clarity of vision, her firmness of resolve, and her willingness to live with the consequences of a principled position continue to represent a model of integrity in her business," speaks for itself.