Thu | Jun 30, 2022

Wehby calls for assessment of laws protecting elderly before pitching new one

Published:Saturday | May 21, 2022 | 12:12 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter

At least one government senator has cautioned against moving too quickly to promulgate new legislation aimed at protecting the elderly, noting that an assessment of existing legislation must first be considered.

Speaking on Friday in the Lower House, Senator Don Wehby argued that such an assessment will help legislators determine if a new legislative framework is needed for the protection of the vulnerable.

Opposition Senator Floyd Morris last week Friday moved a motion for the promulgation of the Elderly Care and Protection Act, citing concerns about the abuse of the country’s elderly population.

Morris wants a special select committee of the Senate to be named to deliberate on the scope and magnitude of the law to be formulated.

But Wehby has suggested that his colleagues build on what already exists.

“Sometimes I’ve seen in this House we call for legislation to be passed when what we really need is a laser focus on implementing and improving the framework that already exists. This, in my opinion, should, at least, be the first step,” said Wehby when he rose to debate the motion.

He noted that a national policy for senior citizens was established from as far back as 1997 by Portia Simpson Miller, a former minister of labour and social security who later became prime minister.

He said that last year, Labour and Social Security Minister Karl Samuda tabled a national policy for senior citizens, as a part of Vision 2030 Jamaica, slated to be implemented over the next 10 years.

Referencing the importance of healthcare to the elderly, Wehby used the annual report for the National Health Fund (NHF) for the period 2019-2020 to make his case.

He said that there were 862,797 registered beneficiaries. Of that figure, 419,945 were considered active beneficiaries. Of those active, Wehby said that during the year, only 48 per cent accessed the NHF card, which subsidises a select list of prescription drugs, respiratory devices, diabetic supplies, and diagnostic tests for some Jamaicans.

“This is what I mean by there’s work to be done. We need to do some data analytics on why and how we’re going to fix it instead of rushing to establish new legislation,” he said.

Wehby further said that the implementation of the National Identification System (NIDS) will allow the Government to identify the elderly who are in need.

“In other words, when you’re doing that analysis on the National Identification System and you have your database and you put the database to everybody over 60 and you cross-reference that to the NHF, if there are people who are registered under the NIDS and don’t have a medical benefit from the NHF. then we flag that and we engage them and say, ‘come and register with the NHF’,” said Wehby.