by Marco Lopez
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 14, 2022
A coalition of medical professionals has given the Government of Belize until November 17th to come to the table in a meeting focused on addressing 7 key problem areas identified in the healthcare system by the frontline workers. Last Friday, a joint press release from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Authority Workers Union (KHMHAWU), the Nurses Association of Belize (NAB), and the Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) which are jointly referring to themselves as the Belize Coalition of Medical Professionals (BCHP), warned the government that if the meeting is not held before the specified date, the alliance would be “taking necessary action against the failing state of our healthcare system.”
Late last month, the KHMHAWU held a press conference at which it directed criticism at the government and the hospital following the postponement of a scheduled meeting at which pressing issues such as supply shortages and inadequate compensation for healthcare workers were to be discussed with Health Minister Hon. Kevin Bernard. Hon. Bernard had indicated that the discussion was postponed until around mid-November, and this latest offensive from the healthcare workers is seemingly seeking to ensure that a meeting takes place.
The joint release states, “We demand that those with authority make the necessary changes within the health system to facilitate timely and efficient healthcare delivery.” They are calling for urgent and meaningful intervention from the government and stakeholders and are requesting various other ministries besides the Health and Wellness Ministry to be included in the discussion. Also called to the table is the Ministry of Public Service, the Ministry of Labor, and the Financial Secretary, and seven key issues are to be addressed and discussed.
These include, “1. The extreme shortage of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and human resources, 2. A salary review for healthcare workers, clarification on pension status, and the exemption of income taken from the severance of KHMHA employees, 3. Reduction of income tax for all healthcare workers, 4. Revision and implementation of the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014- 2024, the compendium of allowances, the nursing review document of 2007, circular 6 of 2012, and patient transfer standard policy., 5. Appointment of members of key medical associations on the MOHW tendering committee, 6. Provision for health insurance for all healthcare workers, and 7. Defining higher education and experience in a health-related field as a pre-requisite for the appointment to the post of Minister of Health.”
The coalition pointed out that while healthcare professionals remain committed to delivering high-quality care, the deficiencies in the healthcare system continue to pose challenges and demoralize staff, “putting patients’ rehabilitation and even lives at risk,” the release states.
The joint release states that while they recognize the healthcare professionals’ responsibility to provide quality healthcare services, they are also aware that, “the provision of resources to do so, as well as the development and practice of sustainable public health, is ultimately the responsibility of the government.”
We’ve reached out to Minister of Health and Wellness Hon. Kevin Bernard to find out whether the meeting set for between the 12 and 16 of November will still take place within that designated time period, but have not yet received a reply. We will continue to follow.