Byer-Suckoo calls for review of NIS sickness benefits
Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is calling for reform of sickness benefits in Barbados.
Dr Byer-Suckoo cautioned that if the National Insurance Scheme’s (NIS) sickness benefit were to remain a viable option for Barbadians, measures had to be implemented to protect it and stamp out the “unsavoury practices” of inappropriate claims.
The minister made the recommendation during a recent courtesy call with President of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) Dr Abdon DaSilva and Director of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Ian Carrington, at her Warrens office. However, the information was made public only Wednesday afternoon by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) in a release .
Her call for reform came after Carrington revealed that 533 doctors had issued 49,555 certificates totalling 561,000 benefit days over a ten-month period in 2009.
He said the claims cost the NIS $30 million, well in excess of the $28.6 million budgeted for that entire year.
“The specific areas of concern were that some doctors issued many more sickness certificates than the average; and that patients treated the sick days as an entitlement which were too often used as vacation days and not for genuine sickness,” the BGIS release stated.
It added that Carrington also pointed out that when compared to the rest of the region, Barbados had claims for twice the number of sick days and also twice the payout.
Dr Byer-Suckoo maintained that the trend could not continue, and requested the support of the medical community and the trade unions to work towards a solution, stressing that public education was needed on the role and use of sickness benefits.
The minister and the BAMP head agreed that the NIS would meet with the doctors to this end, the BGIS release said.