A former senior Government functionary is finding it a difficult task to access support from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to fund high-cost dialysis care which he needs. Although known for his medical skills offered through the Ministry of Health for many years, Dr. Gladstone Mitchell today is concerned that his dedicated work is going unrewarded.
The 76-year-old medical practitioner recalled that during the course of his practice he served across Guyana including the North West District, Essequibo and Berbice. He retired in 1993 as Medical Superintendent of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) before moving on to function as Medical Advisor to the very NIS which is refusing to render support to him.
And according to Dr. Mitchell there is no question as to whether his contributions were deducted. “It is automatic (the deductions). You don’t have to go and pay it…but now they have refused to give me any aid for dialysis,” said the ailing Dr. Mitchell who however said, that he understands that it is Management’s right to give him that support or not.
The doctor said that in seeking the support he inked and delivered himself a letter to NIS. “Unfortunately, I got no response to my letter; no acknowledgment and no official response to the request.”
According to Dr. Mitchell the only feedback he was able to secure was from individuals with whom he had personal relationships with during his tenure there.
According to the Doctor, although his work over the years saw him worthy to be afforded a National Award ( Golden Arrow of Achievement), and a gold medal from the Ministry of Health, since he retired he has been the recipient of the minimum possible pension.
This, he said, has been linked to claims that the Ministry of Health had failed to pay all of his contributions. “That’s what they are claiming but that isn’t my business, because if I didn’t pay all my contributions for all my employees they are supposed to put me in jail…But I have to suffer the consequences of the Ministry of Health not paying all my contributions.”
He said that his concerns were even brought to the attention of President Donald Ramotar, the Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of NIS, Dr. Roger Luncheon, via correspondence. He has thus far got no response. No response has also been forthcoming from “a Ms. Nelson who is a prominent elder in the Anglican Church…” who is responsible for managing the affairs of NIS.
It was for this reason, Dr. Mitchell said, that he was prompted to take his concerns to the media. “I don’t expect redress, but I don’t want other professionals and other workers to suffer the same consequences. Don’t expect that you will work your butt off and get anything…when you are finished working and you bend down a little bit, all you get is a kick…” theorised Dr. Mitchell.
Dr. Mitchell commenced dialysis less than a month ago at a cost of $36,000 per session at the 5G Dialysis Centre in South Ruimveldt, Georgetown. He is required to undergo sessions three times weekly which will translate to $108,000 per week and some $6 million per year.
However, since the owner of the dialysis centre is a colleague he is enjoying a 25 per cent discount.
According to Dr. Mitchell he was able to gain one week of free dialysis at the GPHC because of his daughter’s influence as Chairman of the Medical Council. This was however, not continued since dialysis is not an outpatient service offered by the facility.
And since there has been no forthcoming support to sustain his dialysis need, Dr. Mitchell confided that “I am now forced to sell my family home to meet my medical expenses.” “Fortunately my daughter is living in Trinidad and the house that she left I am going to move into that,” he intimated.
NIS Public Relations Officer, Dianne Lewis-Baxter, said that Dr. Mitchell became ineligible because the condition, for which he is seeking NIS support, was not presented before he was 60. The scheme does not support medical conditions that were not suffered by the contributor prior to him or her being 60 years of age.
And commenting on the minimum pension Dr. Mitchell receives, Mrs. Baxter said that the small dollar figure people were paid does not translate into the kind of pensions that are appropriate today.
The formula takes into account the salaries earned at the time of retirement. It does not cater for the inflation that has pushed up the dollar figure that passes for salaries.
Ms Baxter said that the formula needs to be changed.
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