Caring for ordinary workers

Caring for ordinary workers

Dear Editor,

From the perspective of one who has had substantial experience in the sugar industry of Guyana, one cannot help but feel a sense of pride when in observing the decision–making debacle surrounding the dispensation of health benefits of the ordinary worker in the United States of America – contradictorily about which there seems to be but minimal unification, certainly at the level of the federal administration, one reflects on our own achievements in this area.

There was a time when in the sugar industry of those uncaring days, it was plagued by malaria. It was Bookers Sugar Estates who recruited Dr. Giglioli and assigned him to research and harness the result of the mosquito, which caused the epidemic, albeit with historic success.

By the early 1960’s, the initiative was taken to develop new healthy communities for some 28,000 employees. There were hospitals operating on all but one of the ten estates, with qualified para-medical staff headed by an Estate Medical Officer. Remarkably, all the childbirths were professionally delivered by certified midwives, supported by qualified nurses and pharmacists (dispensers).
To date, GuySuCo remains the only industry anywhere amongst so-called democratic economies that provides the following health benefits:

Free medical services to its employees (28,000 in the 1960’s, 17,000 in 2017), their spouses and unemployed children up to age eighteen. Add to that 5235 pensioners in 2017.
Until the closure of three estates in 2017, there were still 6 Estate Medical Officers supported by paramedical staff manning 15 Primary Health Care Centres which had long before replaced hospital facilities upon nationalisation, except for Skeldon and Port Mourant. However, since then, there were established two Regional Diagnostic Centres.

But also, ever since 1964, Bookers Sugar Estates had insured a contributory Hospitalisation and Maternity Scheme which, over time, included all monthly and weekly paid employees; and catered for overseas treatment. The Scheme still thrives today and includes families.

But this nationalised industry must have been from the start the most consistent contributor to our National Insurance Scheme which is required to compensate medical bills incurred by all persons formally employed.

There is of course the legal dispensation by employers of:
– paid leave
– paid sick leave
– paid maternity leave
with all of which the Republican Administration is now grappling, not paying attention to Guyana’s track record.

E. B. John

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