Grange pledges $1mil to Mullings recovery
Sports Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said her ministry has committed $1miilion to assisting popular Jamaican boxer Sakima Mullings with medical expenses, after it was recently discovered that the former Contender champion is suffering from a retinal injury which threatens to end his professional career.
Speaking at the opening of the new Aquatic Sport Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) administrative building at Independence Park yesterday, Grange, said that her ministry would be better able to provide assistance to Mullings and other national representatives, in all sports, who are going through medical difficulties, if they were registered under the Government's Athletes Insurance Plan.
"When I heard about Sakima Mullings, it pained my heart and we are praying for his full recovery," she said. "But more than that, we have decided to provide Sakima with $1 million to help him meet his medical expenses. The ministry is also in close contact with the Jamaica Boxing Board as we seek to find out what further assistance we could give," she told the audience.
She noted that the boxer has also lent his face to the 'Fight for Progress' initiative which uses boxing to bring out mediation skills, strategising skills, and effective conflict management and which targets low-income, inner-city and at-risk youths. "Sakima is also a spokesman for the Safeguarding and Protection of Children in sports campaign. So it is sad," she added.
But like many of the nation's athletes, Mullings is not registered under the government's insurance plan, making it a lot tougher for associations and athletes to access funds for situations like Mullings'. As a result, the minister calls on the various sporting bodies to get their athletes registered.
"To know Sakima is not on the Government Athletes Insurance Plan, which would definitely be of tremendous help to him at a time like this is sad. It's frequent that athletes with severe health problems turn to the government for help. And we have provided assistance in just about every case. But it is very troubling that some of these very same athletes could have benefited from coverage under the Jamaican Athletes Insurance plan, if only they were registered through their associations or federations, or had made direct contact with the ministry," she said.
"The ministry has constantly called for sporting associations to join the plan to insure national athletes in these development squads preparing to represent the country. I make the appeal, persons in the ministry make the appeal, but there are still many eligible athletes not registered,' she added.
Over 1,300 athletes are currently registered under the plan, which provides basic group health insurance, along with group life and personal accident insurance coverage for all eligible national athletes.
The ministry which now has a full-time administrator working on the plan to spend more than $5million per month on premium payments. group life coverage is $2,250,000 per athlete, the group personal accident plan is $2.5 million for accidental deaths, and dismemberment or total disablement, and the plan covers all sports and athletes from six years to 70 years old.
"Today, I charge associations and federations to take responsibility to enrol their athletes who are eligible for the plan," she said.