Editorial — 04 May 2019
Prayers for Guidance

On the last weekend before May 8th, it is good for all of us to once again consider this important question before us, and pray for Guidance from the Most High that we make the right decision for our people and country.

Yes, there are many things that have not been done right in the process, but as it appears as we write today, Thursday, May 3rd, there will be a referendum on Wednesday, May 8th. Those of us who have the franchise should exercise it.

Surgeon specialists should get the best we have to offer

If you ask people to sit down and ruminate on what profession demands the most energy and is the most stressful, and is as important as any, it is a given that the medical profession would be named, hands down.

Persons who will become doctors have to study a lot. Study.com says you have to do 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3-7 years of residency before getting a license to practice medicine in the US. That seems difficult enough, all that sacrifice, dedication, and hope in the future the prospective doctor must go through and have, but that does not compare with what a doctor will face when they get into the real work, dealing with us when we are sick.

It is a lot of psychological strain and pain that doctors have to endure. We have heard of priests who went to live among lepers. They were sure to catch the dreaded disease, a disease that diminishes the quality of life until the merciful end. They are the people who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Doctors walk in the footsteps of Jesus too. Whenever, wherever there is an epidemic, they make the tremendous sacrifice, put their lives on the line to save others.

Lawyers do encounter the rare case when an innocent person is sent to the gallows, and engineers do agonize when their foreman accepted inferior materials from a contractor and the wonderful bridge they designed, collapsed, causing tremendous loss of material resources, inconvenience, disruption of the economy, and maybe even loss of life.

Teachers endure a lot of stress too. They must form deep attachments to some of their students, concern that follows their charges wherever they go in life. They must share in their triumphs when they learn of a past student making it big in the world, but there must also be tremendous grief when one of their charges wastes their opportunities in life or comes to a tragic or disgraceful end.

Everyone knows pain in this world, some more than others, and none like the people who work in the medical profession. Doctors and nurses really must have a tough exterior or a special perspective about life, or they would fall apart from the mental strain.

It is unlikely that anyone on the planet grudges doctors for what they earn. There are people in other professions whose earnings we, some of us, consider obscene, but you would have to be sick in the head to begrudge what doctors earn. The fact is that some doctors in our country aren’t earning enough. This is a matter that has to be addressed urgently by our government.

 The delivery of health care is the business of government. It has to be government’s business because of the concern of contagious diseases. There must be a system in place to prevent the entry of contagious diseases into our country, and to contain such diseases, and those that are endemic when they resurface, so as to prevent an epidemic. People pay their taxes – income, excise, GST – so that government can carry out these duties.

Most governments are on the same page when it comes to how they address primary matters, the necessary childhood immunizations, and the control of contagious diseases, but on the delivery of health care as it pertains to individual health problems, in as much as any health problem can be considered an individual concern, is where governments differ in their delivery of services.

David Rook, in the story, “How Does Healthcare in Europe Work?” (www.griffinbenefits.com (JP Griffin Group)), explained that “most European nations (in addition to others around the world) have some type of universal healthcare. According to the definition provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), this means that everyone has equal access to quality healthcare that improves the health of patients and that seeking such care would not cause financial harm to those receiving it.”

Rook says, “Each country has figured out their own way of organizing their insurance companies, doctors, and hospital systems. But regardless of country, healthcare in Europe is designed with the same goal in mind: to make sure every person has access to basic health services.”

“One of the major similarities across healthcare systems in Europe,” he says, ”is that all citizens are included. Even in partially privatized systems, an individual mandate is in place (and strictly enforced) to ensure that healthy people are in the system to help offset the costs of sick people. Another commonality is that healthcare in Europe (regardless of system) is largely funded by tax dollars collected from employers and the public.”

In a press release appearing in the Tuesday Amandala (this week), the Taiwan government boasted that its health insurance system is “widely regarded as one of the best in the world.” The release said that their NHI’s “integrated preventive health care services and pay for performance programs have ensured a high quality of healthcare”, and that to reduce health inequalities in the system, “premium subsidies are provided to disadvantaged groups such as low-income households and the unemployed.”

Belize boasts a public health system that doesn’t turn down anyone, and the services rendered are either free or for a nominal fee. There is an NHI scheme in some parts of the country; patients of working age who attend NHI clinics pay a nominal fee and elders get their services for free.

Patients at public hospitals who need specialist intervention are referred to private specialists, but this can involve a fairly long wait. If the patient or their family has the resources, it is their choice to forego the referral, which would be provided at a nominal fee (subsidized by the government), and move up the schedule and pay the doctor as they would charge for private services.

The services provided at the public hospitals and clinics are at the most basic level. The government doesn’t pay for many X-Rays and all CAT-Scans and other kinds of Imaging have to be paid for by the patient. Many Belizeans don’t have private insurance so the costs for these services are paid for directly out of pocket.

It happens sometimes that the doctors in the public health system determine that a patient is in need of specialist surgical attention, and the patient is referred to surgeon specialists who double with the public hospitals and the private hospitals. These surgeon specialists perform jobs at the public hospitals for fees that don’t come anywhere near to what they would receive if they performed the surgery at a private hospital. Naturally, these surgeon specialists would prefer to do their surgeries at the private hospital.

There are times when a surgery is urgent. The surgeon specialist, who would normally do the job on referral, is forced to perform immediately in these cases, at public rates. We are aware of the outstanding job done by our surgeons at the public hospitals, but we can see that this is not an ideal arrangement.

There are two people in this world that you want to be as near to 100% happy as can be: the person preparing your food, and the person who is going to cut you open. They, the surgeon specialists, are the strikers, the homerun hitters of the medical profession, and they absolutely must get preferential treatment.

Altruism is a choice. In instances where a surgeon specialist has to perform in these situations the government should pay them whatever they would have made if they performed the surgery in a private hospital in Belize. The doctor behind the scalpel must perform under the best of conditions Belize can provide.

A serious health problem can wipe out everything a family owns. The pain of a family that loses someone who could have been helped if the family had the money makes the agony more excruciating. Some families just can’t find the money. Families in Belize shouldn’t have to beg for assistance from the public to get specialist surgeries done in Belize.

The government controls our taxes and it must find a solution to improve health care for Belizeans who aren’t rich. There are the situations where specialist treatment must be done abroad.  As in all things there are grey areas, but all will agree that we have to do better.

(Some information in this editorial was drawn from persons who spoke on actual experiences in the public system.)

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Deshawn Swasey

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