Doctors back in business after COVID-19 shock

November 13, 2020

Guardian Life Limited says it has noticed a gradual return to normalcy among Jamaicans who access medical services in the private sector.

The company revealed that there was an unprecedented shift in the way Jamaicans prioritised doctor visits or check-ups, and used health insurance in 2020, between March and June.

Fewer persons were recorded making their scheduled in-office doctor visits then, which is likely to have been as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the concomitant restrictions.

"Since July, however, the trend is beginning to return to pre-COVID-19 norms, and activities indicate a continued increase, as more and more individuals are proceeding with planned healthcare and this will see our data return to pre-COVID levels in the near future," Constance Hoo, vice-president, employee benefits sales and health operations at Guardian Life Limited, told THE WEEKEND STAR. "During the second quarter of the year, decreased activities which were likely due to the restrictions implemented at the time, resulted in a decrease in the value of claims paid,"she said.

Avoiding going to doctors

Jamaica has recorded more than 9,600 cases of COVID-19 since March, 225 of which have resulted in death. Many persons have been avoiding going to doctors, dentists and ophthalmologists, out of fear they may get sick.

"Recently, our observation is that doctors' visits are also returning to normal. It is fair to say that dental and optical trends have returned to pre COVID-19 norms," he said.

Tamara Richards, 32, who uses health insurance, told THE WE EKEND STAR that she has been scheduled to have her braces tightened for months.

"I just don't want to go and do it. Me prefer fi wait until things look better because I don't think hospitals or clinics are safe right now. Plus with the dentist, that's a good 15 to 20 minutes in my mouth ... and me nuh know who else the dentist work pon," she said.

Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, says dental places were closed when COVID reached Jamaican shores.

"We were told that dentals were closed except for emergencies. Optical as well, is another high-risk contact point, so that could be a reason for reduced visits. That's a high- risk transmission ... through the mouth and the eyes," she said.

Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited and Canopy Insurance Limited were also contacted last week regarding COVID-19 insurance trends, but no information was provided.

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