The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) plans to hire temporary workers to help tackle the backlog of sickness and unemployment claims at the department. In addition, full-time employees will be required to work overtime to clear the “large” number of claims, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Management Dr Esther Byer told Barbados TODAY.
Dr Byer attributed the backlog to “a number of factors” but said she was confident it would be cleared quickly.
“Having identified them and having put systems in place so that we can deal with it, I am satisfied that we can get ahead of this in quick time. We are going to be able to clear our backlog and that is priority number one now,” she declared.
Media reports earlier this week stated that a backlog of about 20 000 claims was becoming a major worry for officials. Last week, an emergency meeting was held between the board and management to come up with solutions to the problem.
While admitting that there were a high number of claims, the minister contended that the numbers reported in the media were inaccurate. She estimated as much as 30 per cent of this figure could be duplicates in the system as a result of the introduction of a new information technology system.
Dr Byer claimed that negligence of some employers and doctors to provide adequate and relevant information to the department halted the processing of claims and contributed to the buildup.
The minister, who has responsibility for the NIS, suggested that backlogs were a way of life at the state agency, pointing out that there was an accumulation of 7000 claims last year.
“This is because sometimes people don’t submit the right information. And sometimes people leave out information and you call and tell them come back and provide that information and they don’t.
“Or you may need something from a doctor for employment injury, or you may need something from an employer and that information doesn’t come in. You have always had thousands of cases sitting down at National Insurance just waiting on information to be processed. It has nothing to do with IT or it has nothing to do with staff,” she said.
Dr Byer also blamed last year’s Chikungunya outbreak for a “higher than normal” number of claims which she said were made while changes were being made to the IT system. But she told Barbados TODAY the department had been making progress in clearing the backlog. (AH)