Guyana and the Health Sector have lost a champion- Roger Luncheon

We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dr Roger Luncheon, who recently passed away after a long struggle with poor health. Dr Luncheon’s passing on August 2, 2023, has left the Health Sector and medical profession in mourning. His loss is deeply felt in the health sector and across Guyana.

Dr Luncheon left a lasting impact on our country through his contributions to politics and healthcare. His legacy will be remembered for many years to come.

Dr Luncheon received his education and training in the USA. He became Guyana’s first Nephrologist and dedicated almost two decades of service at the Georgetown Hospital. During his early years, he worked alongside a group of renowned doctors, including Dr Deen Sharma, the only urologist on staff; Dr. Ramsundar Doobay, the medical specialist; Dr. Bud Lee, the surgeon, Dr. Moti Lall, and several others. He returned to Guyana in the early 1970s and served as a public servant from the very beginning of his return.

From the moment he returned to Guyana, he was a devoted supporter of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. For over two decades, from the early 1970s to 1992, he served the Georgetown Public Hospital with unwavering dedication. He not only provided his patients with the best quality medical care, but he also showed them kindness and patience. He made himself available to see patients at his home and even visited them in their homes. Known as “Doc” to many Guyanese, he was beloved by thousands. Even as he pursued political work throughout Guyana, he always made time to visit those who were sick. Despite his long career in Guyana, he never accepted payment as a private doctor and relied solely on his public servant salary. His home visits and medical services were always provided pro bono, as acts of generosity.

During the 1980s, Dr Luncheon played various roles in the healthcare industry. He worked as a doctor at Georgetown Hospital and also served as a mentor to many doctors who are now considered veterans in Guyana. Additionally, he was a teacher and lecturer at the University of Guyana’s Medical School when it was established in the late 1980s. Dr Luncheon taught several of the medical school’s brightest students, who are now shining stars in the field.

Roger Luncheon was a trusted advisor to the Ministry of Health for nearly 50 years, despite his political opposition to the government prior to 1992. He continued to provide guidance to the Minister of Health and government officials until his passing on August 2, 2023. Although his role may not have been necessary or well-received between 2015 and 2020, he remained willing to offer any assistance he could.

During his time as the Head of the Presidential Secretariat from 1992 to 2015, Dr Luncheon coordinated all Cabinet Sub-Committees, including the Sub-Committee on Health. He played a vital role in advancing healthcare in Guyana by overseeing the development and implementation of programs such as Cardiology, Transplant, Dialysis, and Radiotherapy. Dr Luncheon’s unwavering support ensured the successful establishment of a post-graduate program in surgery, despite opposition from many within and outside of Guyana. This program has grown to 18 specialist areas. Additionally, he provided significant support for other programs at the University of Guyana, including the nursing and physiotherapy degree programs. Without Dr Luncheon’s contributions, these programs would not have been possible.

During the Ministry of Health’s efforts to reform and transform the legal and legislative framework for the health sector, Dr. Luncheon provided valuable support to Health Minister Gail Teixeira. Specifically, he played a vital role in the introduction of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in Parliament and supported amendments to the Medical Council and Nursing Council laws. Dr. Luncheon also contributed to the creation of several important acts, including the Ministry of Health Act, the Health Facilities Licensing Act, the Allied Health Practitioners Act, the Pharmacy Practitioners Act, The Regional Health Authority Act, The Blood Transfusion Act, and The GPHC Incorporation Order. His contributions to the legislative framework were significant and greatly appreciated. He also worked on the draft Tobacco Control Bill, which became law in 2016.

In the 1980s, when the Guyana Medical Association had become defunct, Dr Luncheon, working alongside other iconic doctors, such as Deen Sharma and Walter Ramsahoye, ensured a new vibrant Medical Association was established. By 1989, the group was agitating for more independent control of medical practitioners and in 1991, the government relented and permitted a bill to be introduced. The present Medical Council functioning is still largely based on the 1991 Medical Practitioners Act. This Act was slightly amended to add two non-medical members in 2006.

In 1992, Guyana’s new president, Dr Cheddi Jagan, asked Dr Luncheon to serve as Head of the Presidential Secretariat, which interrupted his full-time job as a doctor. However, he continued to provide medical services to his colleagues and ordinary Guyanese whenever they needed it. Numerous individuals have sought him out for their medical requirements, particularly in the field of nephrology. Dr Luncheon has never refused assistance to anyone. Guyana’s health sector has suffered a great loss with the passing of a champion. Although we cannot replace him, his contributions have made a lasting impact on the sector. The Ministry of Health honours him as one of our most valuable assets and a true hero in the field of medicine.