Govt instructs NIS to pay dialysis patients entitled benefits

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh

In light of complaints from some dialysis patients that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) has been refusing to reimburse them for their dialysis treatments, Senior Minister with Responsibility for Finance Dr Ashni Singh has instructed the agency to ensure that these claims are paid.

This directive was passed on to the Management of NIS during an emergency meeting at the Finance Ministry on Thursday.

Some persons have complained to the Finance Ministry of encountering difficulties with receiving their dialysis reimbursements from NIS. Apparently, some NIS locations have adopted a policy whereby they are refusing to grant claims from patients for their dialysis treatment until they utilise the $600,000 cash grant being offered by the government.
In Budget 2022, the Guyana Government announced a $600,000 Grant per annum for dialysis patients.

According to Dr Singh, this grant was intended to be additional support for these patients and should not be used as a basis for persons being denied their legitimate benefits from the NIS.

“I made it crystal clear [during Thursday’s meeting with the NIS Management] that the Government’s $600,000 grant for dialysis patients is intended to be an additional support to dialysis patients and was never intended to result in patients being denied their NIS benefits… The intention was always by the Government to provide additional support and not to provide support – this grant – and then to take it away through another institution of the State.”

“And so, I made this very clear to the senior management of NIS that the $600,000 Grant provided by the government for dialysis treatment is added to whatever was being enjoyed by persons who have paid their NIS over the years and who are entitled to some degree of NIS support,” Dr. Singh related.

Minister Singh explained that this grant was introduced in light of government recognition that the severe challenges being faced by persons undergoing dialysis treatment and the tremendous costs associated with that treatment, including not just the dialysis treatment and the associated medication and other expenditures associated with accessing that treatment.

“Oftentimes, patients would require dialysis treatment twice, sometimes thrice a week, etc. and so recognising this, we introduced this dialysis support programme under which every single person receiving dialysis on a regular basis will get a grant of $600,000… It would be preserved to now turn around and penalise those people by taking away their NIS reimbursement for dialysis treatment,” he contended.

Moreover, the Finance Minister outlined that these patients should not face such difficulties in accessing their contributions made to the NIS over the years.

To this end, Dr Singh provided clear instructions to the NIS Management that the agency discontinue this practice forthwith.

“I gave very clear instructions that they are not to use the receipt of the $600,000 grant from the government by any dialysis patient as the basis for denying any person who is otherwise legitimately entitled to support from the NIS for the purposes of dialysis. I made that very clear to them,” Minister Singh indicated following Thursday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, Dr Ashni has urged any person who may be still encountering such issues to contact the Finance Ministry, where staff is available to deal with this issue.

Nevertheless, it was noted that Government continues to work aggressively to improve the quality of services delivered by State institutions such as the National Insurance Scheme.
Back in April, the Government rolled out the $600,000 assistance to dialysis patients across the country and over $47 million was paid out to some 79 hemodialysis patients to help subsidise their treatment expenses during the first day of distribution.

A total of $180 million was allocated in Budget 2022 to support 300 persons in need of treatment.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony has already reassured dialysis patients across the country that this assistance will be a permanent measure in the country’s annual budgets going forward.

According to Dr Anthony, Guyana has seen a remarkable improvement in providing dialysis care over the past 18 years. He noted that space was even provided for the Doobay Medical Centre to offer dialysis at the New Amsterdam Hospital. Similar provisions were also made to offer dialysis treatment in Linden and talks were in the works for this service to be available in Essequibo as well.