Features — 24 March 2018 — by Bernard Bulwer
KHMH’s “multiple organ failure” and violent crime: a portent?

1. I got up (at 2 a.m.) to do some important work for my startup company (Echo Stethoscope Academy), but this “multiple organ failure” description re: the KHMH in this 7 news link (KHMH: Navigating crisis at country’s biggest hospital), disturbed me greatly.

2. Twice, I began writing in response to Belizean FB postings about the violent crime wave, but twice I decided against posting (because it was a bitter pill that the patient was likely to spit out). Plus writing (well) takes up much time. In one sentence: The escalating violent crime wave in Belize is just one symptom of a very sick society. It requires intensive care by multiple specialists. (But the Belizean patient is very stubborn … very “aaze haard”. You memba weh deh seh bout hard-a-hearing pickney?)

3. To put it in context, I was formerly the Medical Director at the KHMH. One of the best decisions I made was to help recruit Dr. Adrian Coye, the current and outgoing CEO, a man I truly respect. His hands are tied. For those not familiar, just YouTube “Belize’s first open-heart surgery”).

4. During my time at the KHMH (2009-2011), one thing that I pushed and spelled out with the late Ambassador Bert Tucker, was the need for a multi-story all-weather tower (and more) at the KHMH, so that the hospital wasn’t forced to evacuate to Belmopan during hurricanes. It didn’t happen. I lamented this in my personal tribute to him, and his efforts in this regard. Today, parts of our national hospital are forced to evacuate even during rain. The Belizean people must now live with the consequences.

5. Based on the reports about infrastructure and roofing crisis at the KHMH, the critical operating theaters at this national referral hospital will only perform emergency surgeries.

6. Back in 2010 while at the KHMH, in response to a wave of violence, with the bulk of such victims ending up at the KHMH, I wrote a long article in the newspapers titled, “Violence and the health of a nation.” (link posted)

7. A major purpose of this article was to highlight an excerpt, “It’s not just the victims who get shot … We as a nation get shot.” (I inserted a few clips with highlights here on the FB post).

8. On the very night of this incident in my article above, I was in Accidents & Emergency, on the phone to the then ComPol, asking him to “shut down the city.” I told him why. The Truth: If there were any more gunshot victims coming to A&E, that person was very likely to die! The hospital, staff, and resources were maxed out!

9. Fast forward to 2016. I was willing to return to Belize (willing to lose my U.S. Green Card), to help lead Belize’s national university, UB. I was willing to put my startup company and other ventures on the back burner, because I knew how that institution could help transform Belize in many ways, including healthcare (if the leaders were serious).

10. At that time, the UB leadership knew and received evidence that I wanted UB to play a major role (if the leaders were serious) in providing continuing medical education (CME) for doctors in Belize, based on an offer from Harvard Medical School. This would help doctors stay current, with many spinoff opportunities and collaboration that could result in improved standards of care in Belize.

11. Another important part of my proposal and promise to UB leadership was that I would pursue funding for a University Hospital of Belize at UB’s 700+ acres Belmopan campus (the bulk of which is lying idle).

12. The rest of it is history. UB leadership chose a better candidate, but it is the Belizean people who live with the consequences.

13. While skipping through the (depressing) Belize news headlines, I glimpsed that another ruling on the UHS $91 million dollar penalty is imminent. … Belize being forced to pay for a tiny private hospital it does not own, and that ordinary Belizeans cannot afford. A price almost double the original cost of the much larger KHMH.

14. I find this UHS debacle personally vexatious and nauseating. I vented in a short piece last year using my “dutty” mouth, titled: ME STAP TALK (My lee kountry turn worse dan prostitute. Becaaz at least prostitute get paid fi deh “ting”. But we Belize give weh wi ting, plus hafftu pay!).

15. I won’t comment on another headline I saw, other than to say … Since the new $33M Belize Civic Center has a good roof and AC (unlike the KHMH), the Belizean people (who will suffer the consequences of the KHMH shut down) should advocate for emergency operating theaters to be temporarily relocated to Civic. No kidding! (Remember that emergency surgeries are performed in war zones. In a tragic sense, neighborhoods not far from the Civic Center are indeed becoming mini war zones).

I MUST END NOW, but in closing:

16. Back to the opening statement and quote, the question now becomes, how long will our country remain “aaze hard”? What will it take for Belize to refer itself for specialist care, rather than ending up with multiple organ failure?

17. Remember … a tragic outcome happens when the diagnosis of Multiple Organ Failure becomes irreversible. Rather than facing a caring, sensitive undertaker, Belize will be forced to submit to merciless vultures. And such vultures are waiting.

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Deshawn Swasey

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