By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Public Services Union President John Pinder is confident the government will provide health insurance to paramedics and other health professionals in need of it long before its national health insurance scheme comes on stream as expected in January 2016.
He spoke to The Tribune about the issue after 30 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) staged a small protest at the Office of the Prime Minister last Friday, stressing their need to have their risk allowance increased from $41.50 to $300 until they receive health insurance.
The protest came after a paramedic, Shawn Kemp, was allegedly assaulted by relatives of a patient when he tried to assist.
Two men, Mr Kemp said, barged into an emergency room and, following a heated exchange with a doctor, one man pounced on him as he stood nearby while another man fought the doctor.
“In the absence of entire country having health insurance, we’re trying to push for them to have health insurance. We’re going to ensure they get health insurance before everybody else,” Mr Pinder said. “They have a strong case for it because they are a priority group.”
Because of the dangers they face, paramedics sometimes avoid going into certain areas of the island to provide relief and assistance to people in need until police arrive, Mr Pinder said, highlighting the dangerous nature of their jobs.
He said he hopes the workers will have health insurance by the end of the year.
And as for claims that paramedics are exploiting last week’s incident of violence to secure more money for themselves, Mr Pinder said: “I believe the problem is we have to stop being reactive and being proactive. That incident shouldn’t have happened before we address the issue.”
When asked for a comment on the issue, Health Minister Perry Gomez emphasised that “first respondents” require risk allowance, then added: “People always say things aren’t enough and they need a raise, but I think they’re going to be taken care of.”