Health Ministry criticizes media for reporting on medical expenses

The Donald Ramotar administration.

[] – In its first public response to the recent revelation of medical expenses extended to government officials, the Ministry of Health sought to condemn the media for reporting on what it described as the “unethical and disingenuous exposure of private medical details, concerning selected government officials.”

Various media entities last week reported on the medical expenses of government officials paid for by the state during the period 2012-13, where it was noted that the government spent $361 million on health expenses, mostly for government officials, during the period in question.

In a press release issued on Sunday, March 01 the Health Ministry said “certain media outlets and personnel, in taking ‘cheap shots’ for political mileage, have revealed not only their political biases, but also an insensitive and inimical culture of journalism, towards the Government of Guyana and the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).”

The ministry’s press release did not directly address the medical expenses but went on a diatribe against the media.

“The Ministry of Health highlights that it is not ‘decent’ to expose these sensitive issues, as they can redound to both medical and impecunious embarrassment. However, some media operatives went this route, clearly targeting a select few from the ruling party, and in so doing have engendered unease among the family members and other concerned relatives and friends.

“The Health Ministry once again condemns the behaviour of those responsible for the report, and deems their actions as ‘vendetta for no known reason.”

According to the press release, “The Health Ministry also sees the reportage as intentionally skewed (with portions being mischievously selected), incomplete, and with ulterior and sinister motives. Also, it should be emphasised that the Ministry of Health embraces and practises a policy, to render assistance indiscriminately and in a holistic manner, depending upon the nature of the medical condition and the financial needs of those seeking to obtain same.”

The Stabroek News had reported that the late Presidential Advisor Navin Chandarpal was at the head of the list, with $116 million spent for cancer treatment. Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s medical expenses which were met by the taxpayer totalled $4.9 million, with “medical support” being listed as the diagnosis, while Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture Ali Baksh had a coronary bypass for which the state paid $12.2 million.

The government also paid his air fare, which amounted to $249,600. According to the Stabroek News, Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy, accounted for $1million, the late former Minister of Education Dale Bisnauth ($1.6 million) and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, also now deceased ($2.1 million).

It was noted that Gitanjali Singh of the Audit Office and wife of Minister of Finance Ashni Singh, whose medical expenses in Canada together with her air fare amounted to over $3.4 million. Former Justice BS Roy was given $5.9 million for a coronary bypass which this time was done in Trinidad.

Additionally, Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai received $2.1 million from the government for dental work, while Minister of Human Services Jennifer Webster was the recipient of $1.3 million, also for dental work.