Sunday, November 5, 2023
“I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius the surgeon, likewise Hygeia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses to witness: That I will observe and keep this under written oath, to the utmost of my power and judgment. I will reverence my master who taught me the art.”
Students still recite some variation of the oath on becoming doctors, but it is not the binding covenant it was meant to be when it was written between the 3rd and the 5th centuries BC. I personally believe that it was a very noble oath, promising to take care of the sick, rich or poor, regardless. Of course, in those days medicine was in its infancy as a science; you were mostly bled or made comfortable before going on to the Elysian Fields. But even back then, they knew how important it was to take care of your fellow man, in your community, in the country, or wherever and whenever they needed respite from pain or ailments or diseases.
I was reading with alarm last week, of the dreadful situation the public hospitals in the Jewel are in. No Tylenol, no drips; if you are sick you’d better bring your own medicine with you, maybe your own doctor, or you will suffer and die! I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s mostly true. If you don’t have money and you are sick, you will probably die, unless providence steps in and bails you out. This chronic neglect of our public hospitals has been going on since independence, and has only worsened over the years up to today. There’re always shortages of this or that or dialysis machines or bandages, and on and on.
The reason that a lot of us in the diaspora think twice about retiring or going back home, is mainly because the health care system, the public health care system especially, sucks. Especially for those of a certain age, who are used to having Medicare and Medicaid take care of them and their bills and their health in general. To get sick and to find out that these hospitals are short on medication or beds or even staff is a position that no one wants to be in. Sure, there are private hospitals, but you could be relieved of your entire retirement portfolio by visiting one of those.
One of my predictions last year was that the healthcare system in Belize would improve this year. I was so way off course, I’m embarrassed. I know that government and this current administration has a lot on its hands, but they should never lose sight of the fact that a healthy population is a wealthy one. That investing in the wellbeing of the population is one of the most pressing, one of the most important, functions of their governance. Most people can’t afford to go to Merida or Guatemala or the States or even to the private hospitals in the country. What are they supposed to do? Just wait around and die?
I don’t have the answers; I just know that I want to do everything humanly possible to save my life, any life, instead of letting those in charge of our welfare abandon us and leave us without hope, without adequate healthcare! And to think, there are only about 400 thousand of us in the Jewel. Why can’t we get the help we need? Especially those who need it most! And you doctors, remember and practice your Oath sometimes; it would make a difference!
(AMANDALA Ed. Note: No cause for embarrassment, brother; government has just announced the removal of a number of fees at the public hospitals, (not yet including KHMH, though), so your prediction was partly true.)