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Friday, January 17, 2020
Home Letters Jenni Otterson writes from Punta Gorda

Jenni Otterson writes from Punta Gorda

Dear Editor:

A comment on your editorial “Casino baggage.” You stated that, “You don’t need a passport to enter Belize if you are an American”. You are very wrong in this statement! You cannot board the plane to come to Belize without a passport. Your passport is checked and stamped on arrival. If an American (I assume this applies for others as well) stays in Belize more than 30 days, they have to check in with immigration and pay $50.00 for an extension of your visa, The date is stamped into your passport. For each additional 30 days you have to do the same. After 6 months the fee for renewal increases to $100.00. I am sure that there are many scoff-laws, who don’t follow the rules and I know of several who leave the country for short periods of time to avoid the increase in fees. If there is an increase in pedophiles, deviates and criminals coming here, which is apparently true, it is not because they didn’t need a passport!

A comment on “Medical Tourism”

Every time I read an article about increasing or developing “Medical Tourism” in Belize, I look at the hospital in Punta Gorda and think how badly that hospital needs equipment, trained personnel, medical supplies, a thorough cleaning and updating, and I scratch my head. What can GOB be thinking? Before encouraging foreign investment in medical care for foreigners, wouldn’t it be better to establish quality medical care for the Belizeans first?

I understand that a large “state of the art” hospital is planned for a large development on the Placencia peninsula, near the “new international airport”. I can see a need for a hospital to serve the growing population of that area, but I question whether access to this hospital will be available and affordable for the average Belizean.

I have talked to tourists who were unfortunate and became ill while in Punta Gorda, and my husband spent a night there. The experience my husband had and of the tourists was not good. This reflects badly on the whole country and the medical resources we currently have. Does anyone think that those tourists are going to go back to wherever and tell their friends to come to Belize for medical treatment? I doubt it!

Belize should not be offering concessions for “Medical Tourism” until and unless, every town has a functioning, up-to-date hospital and each village access to a medical clinic. There should be access to modern medicines and treatment. Belizeans should not have to go to Mexico or Guatemala for basic cancer treatments or surgeries. There is some quality medical care available in Belize City, but payment has to be made “up front” and is out of reach of many.

Progress and growth are important but basic health care for the population should come first and foremost. Please GOB, start talking to investors who will guarantee health care to the citizens first, then you can begin to discuss “Medical Tourism”. Perhaps some of the Belizean-Americans who are doctors and nurses should be encouraged to come home: they are certainly needed here.

Jenni Otterson
Punta Gorda Town, Toledo

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