The $7.5 million in Covid-19 relief funding earmarked to pay medical providers for their services rendered through the National Health Insurance system only went so far, and nearly $4 million is still owed, according to Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley.

Mr. Wheatley gave the report in response to a question from Opposition Leader Marlon Penn, who sought an update on funding for the NHI system July 10 during the 12th sitting of the House of Assembly. Health insurance also had been a hot topic during the previous sitting of the House as members debated and eventually passed the Medical Amendment Act, 2020.

Opposition member Mitch Turnbull highlighted the importance of having a sustainably funded system if the territory hopes to further develop its medical services to provide for medical tourism and other opportunities.

Mr. Wheatley said last Friday that Virgin Islands providers had been paid through the end of April, but that $3,892,706 is owed to them for services rendered under NHI between May and mid-June.

After Mr. Penn asked when the remainder would be paid to practitioners, Mr. Wheatley said, “As monies become available, it will be paid as quickly as possible. As soon as we get funds in, we will pay them.”

The opposition leader also asked about the specific intended use of Covid-19 relief funds earmarked for helping with NHI. Mr. Wheatley confirmed the $7.5 million in funding was used to pay providers. Approximately $9 million was owed at the time.

Last year, the Canadian human resources consulting firm Mourneau Shepell projected that the NHI programme’s deficit would reach $34.1 million by 2022 under the current system.

Mr. Wheatley also stated that $8,865,403 is owed to NHI by its contributors, including government.

“Government’s contributions are paid up to May and June,” he said. “It is not due until July 15.”

Mr. Penn requested a detailed breakdown of the percent owed by businesses, government and individuals, which Mr. Wheatley promised to deliver.