Minister hits back at Police Welfare Association over medical insurance allegations

Minister Steadroy Benjamin
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By Carlena Knight

[email protected]

Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin has hit back at claims by the Police Welfare Association (PWA) that officers have no medical insurance to protect them in the course of their duty.

Last Friday, the PWA lodged a scathing rebuke of the police hierarchy and the government for their apparent lack of attention to the needs of the police force, which also included a lack of risk allowance and uniforms, and unsanitary working conditions.

But Benjamin, while making his presentation on Monday morning during the budget speech debate, blasted the body for what he called “irresponsible and downright inaccurate” claims, especially where the matter of medical insurance was concerned, saying it has been in place for several years.

This, he said, is corroborated by State Insurance’s Life and Medical Division Executive Manager Janice Hodge in a letter dated February 11 2022, which he read to Parliament yesterday.

“This is to confirm that the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, the prison services and members of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) are covered for health and life insurance with this institution as follows.

“Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda insured $200,000, effective date September 1 1994. Fire Department $200,000, effective date September 1 1994. The Defence Force $200,000, date September 1 1994, and Her Majesty’s Prison $200,000 May 1 2019 – and these persons have the audacity to go on the [radio] and abuse this government of being uncaring,” Benjamin said.

He continued that these policies are still in effect and that several claims have been made in recent times.

“The coverage includes major medical expenses, $100,000 up to $200,000. Life insurance coverage twice their annual salary, accidental death twice their annual salary… and they have the audacity to say there is nothing for police officers,” Benjamin stated.

In 2021, he said a total of $761,389.37 was paid out in claims settlements which included the deaths of Police Corporal Clifton Common and firefighter David Roberts who were both killed in the line of duty.

The minister, who is also the Attorney General, said discussions are currently underway to increase coverage for officers through additional medical screenings.

“Discussion have begun with State Insurance to increase coverage to include specialists’ visits, such as to gynaecologists and urologists, and cancer screenings.

“Considerations are also being made for major restorative dental care. These benefits should be finalised and implemented by the beginning of third quarter for 2022.

“So, I want all those people in ‘radioland’ who listened to those officers from the Welfare Association who maligned, slandered, libelled, try to destroy this government and its confidence to show they are strangers to the truth,” Benjamin said.

He called on the body to cease and desist from making such allegations, pointing to the recent handing over of new motorcycles and the upgrading of police stations as evidence that the ministry is taking an interest in officers’ needs.

Observer approached PWA Chair, Corporal Marilyn Harris, for a comment but she explained that the matter will have to be put before her other executive members before an official response is made in the next few days.

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