After decades of work at the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA), former Orthopedic technician John Rodriguez is appealing to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to help him, saying that 18 months after retirement, he is yet to receive one cent of his pension.
Rodriguez said he will give the SWRHA until the end of February and is already consulting with an attorney to file legal action against the organisation to get his hard-earned money.
He said throughout his tenure, he would have contributed to the pension plan, therefore he was not looking for a handout.
“I have bills to pay, a family to mind, a wife to take care of, I am renting, I have bills, I owe Courts and I have to make groceries. At my age, I can’t mix concrete again after I gave 41 years service to the San Fernando General Hospital,” Rodriguez said.
At Guardian Media’s San Fernando office, he showed a copy of the Election of Pension Option upon Retirement Form for the Regional Health Authorities Pension Fund Plan (South West Section). It showed that on September 9, 2017, he opted to receive a 25 per cent cash lump sum and a reduced monthly pension. This was done ahead of his official retirement date so that when he left the hospital, he would continue to receive an income to help sustain his family.
Now, he is on the verge of pauperdom as his basic bills are mounting and he is close to defaulting on a hire-purchase plan at Courts. He said many of his former colleagues are suffering the same fate and often cry at the hospital after being told that they would not be able to access their pension. Each time they go, they are told that their files are being audited.
Apart from Deyalsingh, he called on SWRHA chairman Valerie Alleyne-Rawlins and CEO Keith McDonald to rescue him from a life of poverty.
Former SWRHA chairman and Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe has reached out to Deyalsingh on behalf of Rodriguez. Through his constituency office, Bodoe, in a letter dated January 18, said that after 11 years working at the SWRHA (previously worked at the hospital under the Ministry of Health), Rodriguez was having difficulties receiving his monthly pension and gratuity from 2007.
“I would be grateful if you can have someone look into this matter as Mr Rodriguez is in need of income,” Bodoe said.
In a response via telephone, McDonald said that like the rest of the public service, the SWRHA has to process the issuance of pension, which would take some time, years in some cases.
He said that in some cases, employees’ leave has to be verified before money can be paid. “It is a complicated process when a person goes through the system and they have the incorrect leaves and other things. It can impact on your pension at the end of the day,” McDonald said.
He said he would have to look into Rodriguez’s file to determine the status of his pension.
Reporter: Kevon Felmine