The financial toll of Pink Eye Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 October 2017 00:00

The Ministry of Health is reporting that since September 10th, up to Monday October 23, 2017, there have been 16,059 cases of Conjunctivitis reported to the Ministry of Health. The breakdown is as follows: Corozal: 2025; Orange Walk: 1326; Belize: 7307; Cayo: 2287; Stann Creek: 2167 and Toledo: 947. That is in stark contrast to last year where the total cases by this time were 2524.

The Ministry states that there is a decline in the number of infections.

But even as the numbers of the eye infection is taking a downward trend, the financial toll is taking an upward one. When persons are infected with Pink Eye, they are advised to stay out of school and out of the work place, that translates into loss of productivity as well as loss of wages. The organization that takes up the slack with wages is the Social Security Board. The Guardian spoke to Chief Executive Officer at the board who reports that as of October 18, SSB has processed 5,174 claims for pink eye for the month of September and a portion of October. These claims resulted in a total of 24,302 sick days, which resulted in Social Security Board paying out over $704,000 in sickness benefits. This figure is however not a full picture as the epidemic is still ongoing and claims keep coming into the board on a daily basis. It is estimated that by the end of it the board would have paid out at least a million dollars in benefits.

The largest number of claims have been received by the Belize City branch office, followed by Orange Walk and then the Belmopan branch. And as the board keeps receiving claims it has issued a Public Service Announcement advising persons affected by pink eye that it would accept sickness benefit claims signed by a doctor for up to 10 days rather than the usual 4 days.