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NDP turns down PM’s offer of medical bills assistance


The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) wants no part of a commitment by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to help parliamentarians pay their medical bills.{{more}}

Gonsalves’ offer was made in Parliament last Wednesday, as he responded to an update by Central Kingstown representative Major St Clair Leacock about his recent surgery to correct a retinal tear in one of his eyes, and which, he informed the house, was done at a huge cost, requiring all of last December’s earnings as a parliamentarian “in one fell swoop.”

Gonsalves expressed his regret that there was no medical insurance for parliamentarians, despite several attempts by past administrations, and added:

“I want to give this House the assurance that any member of this honourable 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 authorise a reimbursement for all reasonable expenses for health.”

But in a release issued yesterday, the NDP dismissed the offer, saying it wanted the government to concentrate instead on improving health care to the public.

“Nothing was said about average Vincentians who cannot afford to pay for medical procedures and care, for themselves and their family members,” the release said.

“Nothing was said about those who die for want of medication and medical intervention which our hospital lacks the capacity to provide,” it added.

“What the Prime Minister also failed to say was that his ULP administration refused to implement the National Health Insurance Programme in 2001 which had been developed by an NDP Arnhim Eustace led administration.

” The programme was ready to be rolled out, when they came to power thirteen years ago. Every element of preparation was complete and instead, the programme, which would have provided basic health care coverage for all Vincentians, was ignored, scrapped, discarded by the ULP.

“To come now in 2014 and promise to reimburse parliamentarians for their medical expenses is a slap in the face of every Vincentian who is without the ability to get basic health insurance coverage, because of the ULP’s willful refusal to implement that programme.

” This, at a time when basic drugs are not even regularly available at the hospital; when some tests cannot be performed at our hospital laboratory, forcing those who need them to pay money they don’t have, and in many cases, can’t find, for these services elsewhere.

“What do you say to a government that is obviously callous, and remembers only what it wants to, and not what is real? What do you say to a Prime Minister with the audacity to get up in the parliament and make declarations about health care for the few when he did nothing to secure the health of the many? NO WAY PRIME MINISTER NO WAY! The Opposition will not be a party to your wanton disregard for Vincentians and the dismal state of Vincentian health care services,” the NDP said.