Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn. (FP)

The National Insurance Department has seen a 45 per cent increase in the number of claims received from January to April this year, when compared to the same period in 2018.

Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, made this disclosure on Saturday night, when he delivered the feature address at the department’s GEM Awards Ceremony, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Mr. Straughn told the audience: “Increases have been recorded across all benefit categories, with the largest increase comprising those claims submitted for sickness benefits.  These statistics do not bode well for our goals of maintaining the health of the nation, and this trend does not augur well for annual expenditure projections across all benefit categories.  With respect to the increase in sickness claims submitted, steps are being taken to identify causes and have action taken to halt, slow or reverse this trend.

“The impact of the increase in claims has been an increased workload for the staff of the department, who have been called upon to process more claims and face the increased demands of the public. The staff’s response has been commendable, and they are keenly aware that the department is the nation’s lifeline.”

He added that the employees were focused on conducting the business of the department in a timely manner, and commended them for their diligence.

During the wide-ranging speech, Mr. Straughn said the Government would be working with the National Insurance Department to introduce paternity leave for men in Barbados, as was recently announced by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

“This is but one of the many social improvement strategies that the National Insurance Department will be able to extend to many a family in Barbados.  I certainly look forward to working with your board and your members of staff to be able to bring that policy to fruition in the soonest possible time,” he told the gathering.

Mr. Straughn noted that the National Insurance Department is being used by government to collect the revenue for the Health Services Contribution, which is then forwarded to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

The National Insurance Department in the Frank Walcott Building. (FP)

He pointed out that the department had been partly responsible for tens of thousands of dollars being distributed to the QEH since late 2018.

“This funding will contribute to a substantially higher standard of healthcare in the country.  In addition, the improvement of primary care in the island’s polyclinics, through the implementation of a 24-hour service at a number of polyclinics, improved security and an improved staffing complement will add to this multi-pronged approach of strengthening the health of the nation, one Barbadian at a time,” he explained.

The minister gave the assurance that Government was committed to ensuring the National Insurance Department was never again put in jeopardy because of the actions of a few. 

He said that since the beginning of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Programme (BERT), Government had committed to staying current on paying the National Insurance contributions for its employees, and had put in place a structure for recouping the funds owed to the National Insurance Department by government over the last several years.

“This department has received government paper which will facilitate the repayment of monies owed by the Government of Barbados and ensure that the fund is no longer endangered….,” Mr. Straughn stated.

Database Administrator, Christopher Cox, was awarded Employee of the Year, while the Director’s Award was presented to Claudette Moore and the Supervisor of the Year title went to Lisa Wood.  Gloria Haynes, who worked 40 years at the National Insurance Department, received one of the many long service awards.

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