BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 25, 2021 — Last week, local media reported on the resignation of Dr. Fernando Cuellar from the Board of Governors of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital after Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Michel Chebat, made remarks that seemed to place the blame on the KHMH board for supply shortages at the hospital. This week, there is even more fallout within that ministry following an announcement that the CEO in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Deysi Mendez, is leaving her post due to what Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño has classified as “personality differences”, which led to a loggerhead between her and Minister Chebat, reports say. She will reportedly depart from the Ministry this Friday, November 26.
Some sources are reporting that the strained relations between Mendez and Chebat reached a crisis point some weeks ago when Mendez received a directive from Minister Chebat which instructed her to refrain from making any disbursements for purchase orders or invoices that exceeded $3,500.00 — without first getting his consent. The order effectively undermined her authority as the Ministry’s Accounting Officer, and it is being reported that Mendez was offended by that act of ministerial overreach — so offended that she allegedly stopped signing off on payments, which caused a standstill in the disbursements from MOHW. Unconfirmed reports are even indicating that some key suppliers and service providers were not paid as a result.
In an interview with local media the Prime Minister, John Briceno emphasized that the standoff within the Ministry of Health was an untenable situation, and indicated that they were already in the process of seeking a new CEO to replace Mendez in the Ministry and that the person whom they select will be “very capable and have a lot of experience and… will be able to get the work done. “In reference to Mendez’s reported exit, he said, “Yes, she’ll be leaving. It is obvious that they had personality differences between the Minister and the CEO. So we’re in the process of appointing a new CEO shortly.”
Her departure from the Ministry is taking place at a critical juncture, when the country is still at the height of the third wave of the pandemic, and the Health Ministry is seeking medical professionals to fill two new posts which which were created to replace the post of the Director of Health Services, formerly held by Dr. Marvin Manzanero. Chebat has been seen as a major player in all these shakeups and crises within the Ministry, and calls for his resignation have been made by Dr. Fernando Cuellar; by the president of the Public Service Union (PSU), Dean Flowers; and by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Patrick Faber.
Prime Minister Briceño has stated, however, when questioned about a possible reshuffling of ministries or reassignment of ministers, “…we’re not there. He shared that at the end of the year he will meet with all ministers individually to discussed their work over thus far, and “how best we can continue to provide even a better service.” He shared that his idea is to speak specifically to them about their performance as a minister for the past year.