Reports have surfaced today that taxpayers have been made to fork out close to $1 million dollars for medical expenses for Communications Minister, Maxie Cuffy. The report in today’s Newsday newspaper, highlights that a payment of $980,263.39 is being made to Medcorp Ltd, the parent company of St Clair Medical Centre, where Cuffie received treatment immediately after reportedly suffering a stroke last September.
Reporter Kalifa Clyne unveils that sources have revealed that payment for Cuffie’s bills was approved by Cabinet in January after being submitted for approval by the Ministry of Public Administration and Communications. She further explains that the Communications Ministry has a budgeted line item for medical expenses under Head 31 in the Draft Estimates of Expenditure 2018 and that amount, she notes is $15,000.
On Wednesday, during a press briefing, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, in response to questions from media, described the state’s contribution to Cuffie’s medical bills as “not insubstantial.” He did not provide the total cost of Government’s contribution.
The Newsday article notes that according to the Draft Estimate of Expenditure, this line item accounts for the medical expenses of all eligible public officers in accordance with their terms and conditions of service, or as agreed to by Cabinet. The allocation for medical expenses is a different facility from the UNIMED plan for public servants, which provides coverage for major medical expenses up to $1 million and also surgical benefits, medical benefits, diagnostic services, prescribed drugs, hospital services, dental services, vision, death and disability benefits.
Minister Cuffy remains in the United States and is said to be receiving medical treatment there. Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said he expects Minister Cuffy to return in the not so distant future.
In the past, taxpayers have paid the medical expenses of public servants, including MPs and ministers, according to their terms of agreement. The public paid for Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s medical expenses after his stroke; Opposition MP Fazal Karim’s 2017 medical bills, including treatment in Miami in 2017; and the medical expenses for Timothy Hamel-Smith during his term as Senate President. While other public servants had bills of a more general nature, Hamel-Smith’s claims included a $100 payment for a pharmacy purchase and several low-cost payments for other similar expenses during his term, reports the Newsday.