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Doctor criminally charged for treating 3 police officers

BMDA criticizes SI 62 of SoE regulations, saying it is discriminatory against physicians working in the districts

BELIZE CITY, Fri. May 8, 2020– The Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) issued a press release today saying that it is “appalled by the recent cases of ill-treatment of our doctors.”

The BMDA release comes on the heels of a doctor being arrested and criminally charged for violating a section of the State of Emergency (SoE) regulations which prohibits doctors from engaging in private practice while employed by the government during the SoE.

Under the State of Emergency Proclamation which allowed Statutory Instrument 62 of 2020 to come in force, it is a criminal offense for doctors employed in the public service to engage in private practice.

Dr. Fausto Alvin Pineda of Benque Viejo Del Carmen was recently arrested and charged for violating this regulation by engaging in private practice while prohibited from doing do.

Dr. Pineda was arraigned in the San Ignacio Magistrate’s Court. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on bail.

All offences against the SoE regulations carry a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for 2 years.
The allegation against Dr. Pineda, a resident of Benque Del Carmen, is that while employed at the San Ignacio Community Hospital, he treated 3 police officers at his private clinic that he operates from out of his home.

BMDA said in its press release, “We are dismayed in the most recent event in which police targeted one of our Belizean physicians employed since 2012 at the San Ignacio Hospital. He was arrested and charged for providing medical attention at his private office when the SI prohibited private practice of public doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The Belize Medical and Dental Association vehemently condemns and abhors this part of the SI, since it goes against the very core of our profession, which is to serve our fellow human beings in need. The public sector, it is well known, operates under serious limitations and most of the time is overwhelmed with the number of persons seeking medical attention. It is an undeniable truth that many times patients wait for endless hours to be attended to in our public hospitals”, the release said.

The release continues: “Moreover, during this time, many of the clinics in the hospitals are closed, since the hospitals are running in emergency mode. This leaves the public with limited options for healthcare, since many medical doctors working in the public sector also have private clinics.”

The BMDA release made the point that the possible risk of infection with COVID-19 is not determined by a doctor’s place of work, but by the existence of protocols that ensure precautionary measures and the availability of high-quality PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

“Therefore, we do not support the assumption that contagiousness is determined by the place of work. The BMDA denounces the double standard and the arbitrary application of this SI. It is discriminatorily applied to physicians working in the districts and consequently disregarded for the largest public hospital in the country. The BDMA requests the Government of Belize to repeal this section of the SI immediately and request that the charges made against our colleague be removed,” the release said.

The BMDA release ended saying that it reiterates its commitment to continue support of the Government of Belize in its fight against COVID-19.

Feature photo: Dr. Fausto Pineda

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