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The state of medical treatment in Belize

FeaturesThe state of medical treatment in Belize

Belize has two healthcare systems: one for the people with money, and the other for the poor and working class.

by: Wellington C. Ramos, Belizean-American Activist

April 2, 2024

When some of us were growing up throughout our country of Belize, the Healthcare System was comprised of a Hospital, Public Health Clinic and a Mobile Rural Health Team. When a person got sick, he or she was taken to the Emergency Room to see a doctor. When the doctor evaluated the patient, he or she would decide on whether to admit the patient or to send him or her home with medication and give them a follow-up appointment. If the patient was admitted to the hospital, the doctor would give the patient or his family member the reason for the admission. Not too much has changed, except for the type of healthcare we are receiving in Belize. today.

Hospitals

In those days, Belize City Hospital had the best equipment and doctors, so most doctors from the other districts would send their patients to the Belize City Hospital if they felt that their patients needed additional treatment. The Belize City Hospital was divided into different wards at the time, and they were designed based on the patients’ illness and condition. The people from the other districts in Belize felt that whenever a patient was sent to Belize City, it was because his or her condition was not good. Many of our citizens travelled back and forth to Belize City to visit our family members. This is still happening today, because some of the hospitals in the other districts do not have some of the medical equipment, doctors and specialists to do the testing, diagnosis and treatment.

No dialysis machine in the south

I was told recently that for years the hospital in Dangriga had a dialysis machine, but it was removed and taken to a hospital in the northern part of Belize. Currently, the Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga, that serves the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, does not have a dialysis machine. There are many citizens in the south who suffer from diabetes and are in need of this machine to get their regular treatment. Those people who have the money traffic back and forth to Belize City to get their treatment at a high cost; while those who cannot afford the cost of the travel and the treatment, stay in the south, which results in their condition getting worse.

Public Health Clinic

The Public Health Clinics in Belize were used to provide Preventive Care and After Care to our citizens. I remember when all the schools in Dangriga would take their students to the Public Health Clinic to receive their vaccinations and receive dental treatment. The Public Health Clinic Building by the beach is now sitting there with no activity taking place.

Rural Health Nurse and Mobile Team

There was a Rural Health Nurse assigned to the Dangriga Hospital and the other hospitals in the country. The Rural Health Nurse’s responsibility was to go in a vehicle to all the villages and provide healthcare and medical referrals to the citizens of the villages. If the nurse felt that a patient needed immediate care, that patient would be brought back with them to the district hospital.

Belize hospitals today

Over the years, the country of Belize has seen a growth in its population and a demand for medical services, especially from Americans, Belizean-Americans and Belizean citizens who want quality medical care. Most of these people have money to pay for their care, or have medical insurance to cover the cost of their care.

This has led to the establishment of private hospitals and medical institutions like Belize Healthcare Partners, St. Luke Hospital, Belize Medical Associates, Buttonwood Bay Medical Center and other private clinics. There are no laws in Belize to regulate the cost of these hospitals’ treatment, and their prices keep going up. The average Belizean citizen cannot afford the cost of their treatment.

My views on mental illness

In the past, and even up to today, many Belizeans look down at their fellow citizens with mental illness. Little do they realize that it is just an illness like many other diseases, and that these patients need to be treated. Some Belizeans, including some police officers, have been abusing our citizens with this disease, and no action is taken against them.

I believe that it is time for the Government of Belize to establish a Psychiatry Department in all their hospitals to ensure that our citizens with mental illnesses be given the protection and care that they deserve. Mental patients who pose a threat to themselves, family and the public at large, should be in the hospitals until it is determined that they pose no threat. This will reduce the amount of people with mental illness walking the streets in our country and getting abused or abusing our citizens.

Health insurance a necessity

Many countries in the world depend on health insurance to pay for the treatment of their citizens. There are several Belizean-American citizens who want to go back home and live, but the type of medical treatment in Belize and the insurance are the two main issues that are stopping them from returning home. There are a few American insurance companies that provide worldwide coverage for their citizens, such as Cigna Global, Bupa/IHI and International Medical Group. The Government of Belize should grant these companies license to sell their medical insurance in Belize. This will encourage Belizean-Americans to sign up with these companies and it will create jobs and revenues for our Belizean citizens. They should also encourage more insurance companies in Belize and abroad to provide health insurance to make it competitive.

Possible solutions

For Belizeans who are uninsured, the Government of Belize should consider passing a National Insurance Act (NIA). The laws will ensure that the Government and businesses will provide Health Insurance to all their employees for a reasonable and affordable monthly deductible. This will generate revenues for the Government to maintain the cost of their staff, hospitals and clinics. People who own their businesses and independent contractors should be allowed to purchase health insurance in this pool as well.

The funds for this insurance must only be used for its intended purpose by the Government and for nothing else. They should also include criminal penalties for the unauthorized use of these public funds. This will help to prevent a person from using the funds unlawfully. There have been reports of people in other countries embezzling these types of funds. We want to prohibit the same to happen in our country.

Medical Technology Specialists and Technicians

When speaking to many of our Belizean citizens, it is being brought to my attention on several occasions, that our Government needs to improve our hospitals and clinics with modern medical technology equipment, specialists and technicians in order to achieve quality care for our citizens. If not, some of our citizens will not be diagnosed, be given the wrong diagnosis, wrong treatment or become victims of untimely deaths. This is an issue that is a major concern for many of our citizens.

Conclusion

It is difficult for a patient or his family member to comprehend that a relative or friend is suffering from Stage-4 Cancer or another chronic disease, when all along he or she was seeing his or her doctor and it was never detected or told to them. This is considered gross negligence on the part of the hospitals, doctors and staff. It is painful to visit a loved one in the hospital lying in bed helpless, pondering his or her fate. I am a strong believer that our Government and citizens can all come together to improve our medical situation in our beloved country, Belize, for all of our citizens to receive quality care and not just some.

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