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Cuellar wants Chebat fired

Outspoken internist resigns from KHMH board

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 15, 2021 — Dr. Fernando Cuellar, the well-known and outspoken internist who is at the helm of the Belize Medical Associates and has been a member of the board of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), has resigned from his position on that board after he condemned remarks made by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Michel Chebat, who last week laid blame on the board for supply shortages at the hospital and told them to “step up”.

Hon. Chebat made the comments on November 10, 2021 when questioned by the media about a reported shortage in the KHMH’s Covid-19 unit of Midazolam, an anesthetic, and monitors — both of which are critical to the treatment of critically ill patients suffering with COVID-19. In his defense, he claimed that the Health Ministry is doing all that it can and that it is actually the KHMH board’s responsibility, given the semi-autonomous nature of the hospital, to ensure that such shortages do not occur.

On the following day, Dr. Fernando Cuellar referred to those comments as “insulting, saddening and downright not true.” He further told the host of the WUB Morning Vibes show that someone with a health background should be at the helm of the Ministry of Health and Wellness for the healthcare system to be managed effectively. He said that in his 30 years of practice as a medical doctor he has seen a lack of political will to improve that Ministry. During his remarks this morning, he said that he would like the Prime Minister and other key leaders in government to consider changing the laws and allowing only persons trained with a medical background to be given the position of Minister of Health and Wellness, and noted the hard time Chebat has had in learning the intricacies of the public health system while making life and death decisions.

Dr. Cuellar also referred to the comments made by Minister Chebat about the subventions given to the hospital by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, but he pointed to the difficulties the Central Supplies Unit, which sends other supplies and pharmaceuticals to the KHMH, has been experiencing in its efforts to procure supplies. He did acknowledge, however, that the challenges faced by public health facilities in their efforts to acquire life-saving supplies have been ongoing for years and have merely been “unmasked” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He went on to state that Minister Chebat’s distasteful words amounted to throwing the KHMH Board “under the bus”, and it was not the right thing to do. He reportedly wanted the members of the board to hold discussions with the MOHW, but they were reluctant to “buck heads” with the politicians, a position that rubbed Dr. Cuellar the wrong way. He said that he has no desire to be around persons who didn’t have the guts to respond to the comments.

Dr. Cuellar further stated that the health authorities in the Ministry and the KHMH board should be working in tandem. There should be no bickering between the two parties; instead, they should be collaboration to improve the healthcare system of Belize as a means to end the raging pandemic, he said. According to Cuellar, however, the remarks by the minister were seen by the board as a means to “save face”.
On the day after he made those remarks to local media, Dr. Cuellar reportedly informed the Board of Governors at the KHMH via a WhatsApp text message that he would be submitting his resignation from that body. The KHMH has made no official confirmation of that resignation to date.

He has resigned after serving on the KHMH board for just 7 weeks, after being appointed in September of this year.

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