Fri | Jul 1, 2022

Paramedics frustrated in struggle for overdue payment from ministry

Published:Thursday | June 23, 2022 | 12:10 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter

The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) owes approximately $2 million to some emergency medical technicians (EMTs)/paramedics for work already done. One person is now arguing a case with an outstanding payment as far as four years. EMTs provide...

The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) owes approximately $2 million to some emergency medical technicians (EMTs)/paramedics for work already done.

One person is now arguing a case with an outstanding payment as far as four years.

EMTs provide the majority of out-of-hospital healthcare, travel in ambulances and provide first-line medical or emergency care for sick or injured persons whether by visiting the houses of ill persons or by being on location at an event, such as a football match or concert.

For national events, such as those hosted at the National Arena or Stadium or for state and official visits, the MOHW would be responsible for the payment of the EMTs.

If the events are local and organised at the regional or parish levels, then the regions would be responsible for the payments.

In an interview with The Gleaner, a whistle-blower among the EMTs revealed that they are paid roughly $2,400 per session, each of which often lasts for four hours.

Some EMTs reportedly also signed contracts for a flat fee of $16,000 per vaccination blitz in the campaign to administer COVID-19 jabs, but were later told that they would be paid per session for the day.

Even with this new arrangement, the EMTs say they are yet to be paid.

“When you call to ask about payment, no information is coming forward or sometimes they would say, ‘We spoke to the accounts department and they’re looking into it’. On numerous occasions, you will hear somebody say, ‘They’ll need your TRN. They need your NIS number, but these contracts or claim forms have the TRN,” one male EMT told The Gleaner. “Is it that all of these are voluntary work, but yet still they give you claim forms to sign and letting people think it’s a paid event?”

SHUNNED

A female colleague lamented that when they are asked to come to work, there is a zeal from management, but when it comes for payment, they are being shunned.

“Sometimes you hear claim forms cannot be found. Sometimes you hear you have to come into the office come re-sign claim forms. Nobody is being held accountable in that department. Nobody whatsoever,” she said.

“When I leave my home where I live in St Catherine, firstly, whatever event you’re going, you have to be there a hour [or] two hours prior to the start of the event,” she complained. “So you’re looking at breakfast, lunch – sometimes lunch is provided and sometimes you don’t eat. So it costs me gas, toll, wear and tear of my vehicle, and that already passes the $2,400 weh dem a pay per session. I can’t keep on a work, a work, a work and mi no know how mi a get paid.”

One EMT said he was asked to travel with the royals in case of an emergency during the recent visit of the Prince William and Duchess Catherine despite being owed for previous shifts.

“Nobody is answering regarding any payment ... and mi just can’t bother!” he said.

Dunstan Bryan, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, confirmed that payments were owed to the EMTs.

He told The Gleaner that the ministry is working with the agencies which requested the services, hoping to settled the matter by September.

“It is to be noted that a majority of the sums owed are due to events that were hosted by third-party institutions for which the Ministry of Health is requested to mobilise the EMTs. While the agreement with the EMTs is with the MOHW, the non-payment by these organisations have impaired the ministry’s ability to honour the agreements with the EMTs,” Bryan said.

He said contracts are signed for each event at which EMTs work and that the operations of the vaccination sites were transferred to the regional health authorities, who may have engaged the EMTs on different terms.

Bryan denied knowledge of payments being outstanding for up to four years.

“This is a case-by-case assessment and there is no current evidence that this is a correct statement. However, if there is a claim for outstanding payments for four years, this case should be brought to the attention of the ministry.”

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com