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Parliamentarians to get assistance in paying medical bills

Parliamentarians to get assistance in paying medical bills

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Parliamentarians got assurance this week that the state will pay the bill for their medical expenses.{{more}}

Finance Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who controls the public purse made the commitment during Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament, ahead of the start of debate on Supplementary Estimates of just under $84 million, in response to a health status report by opposition parliamentarian Stclair Major Leacock.

Leacock updated parliament on a retinal tear that developed in an eye towards the end of last year, which had severly curtailed his ability to keep up his hectic political schedule.

“I had retinal surgery on my eyes. I have made extremely good recovery. I’ve been (to Barbados for medical attention) in March and I hope to go back sometime in April to complete all that is taking place. As you see the correction is such that I’ve gone past the glasses I’ve worn for the last so many years,” Leacock said.

I pray for those who have taken my medical issue to their political platform and their disparagement. We don’t play with these things because in one fell swoop, in December, all of my earnings as a parliamentarian went up in medical fees. It was a huge cost,” he added.

Gonsalves in response bemoaned the absence of medical insurance for parliamentarians despite several previous attempts to put arrangements in place, and added:

“I want to give this house the assurance that any member of this honorable house, present or past, who has any problems with their health and had to seek medical attention and do not have any private insurance and incur expenses, that as Minister of Finance I will authorize a reimbursement for all reasonable expenses for health”.

The Finance Minister expressed shock when, on taking office, there were no provisions by Cabinet to have the medical expenses of the Governor General paid.

“When Sir Charles (Antrobus) was going for medical treatment and I heard that Sir Charles was ill, going to Canada, and was traveling economy class to go to Canada and he was not well,  I had to tell my staff what sort of absurdity is this . The state must pay for his travel to Canada for him and his wife, and also to assist with reasonable medical expenses.”

The parliamentary support lobby also touched on transportation support for the Southern Grenadines representative. The case was made by West Kingstown representative Daniel Cummins:

“Terrence Ollivierre lives on Union Island and he has to attend parliament and other functions on the mainland St. Vincent fairly frequently. The cost of travel by air from Union Island is high. The flights are often unavailable, as is the case today. He could not get a flight and he could not get a boat in time. In fact he is supposed to be on the sea now on a substitute boat…it is a matter that I think the house should address with dispatch.

Prime minister Gonsalves said Ollivierre should benefit from government’s recent assistance package to the fast ferry, when it comes back on stream. The government provided the ferry owners with a low cost loan through petro caribe to purchase a new engine and also made a commitment to purchase one thousand dollars worth of tickets per day to be used by travelling government officials.

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