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MEDICAL CARE


Belize Public and Private Medical Care

Belize has a relatively well established medical care delivery system both at the private and public sector level. Government operates hospitals or poly clinics in every major city and town and in other major population centers such as large villages.

Belize City offers the highest level of medical care in Belize due of course to the large population and client base, close to 100,000 taking into account suburban areas such as Vista Del Mar, Ladyville and Ambergris Caye. Several dental and private medical, lab and diagnostic facilities are available in this urban center. Most any serious medical problems can be treated at Belize's main referral hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (Princess Margaret Drive, Tel. 501-223-1548).Picture: Dental care in Belize is of a high quality usually from U.S. trained dental surgeons and approximately half the cost of the same level of care in North America.

This is a modern public hospital but plagued by equipment problems,supply shortages, and management problems. Hardly a month goes by with stories such as improper treatment, wrong diagnosis, bodies improperly stored and so on. Being a government owned and operated facility this is to be expected. But it is is hard to beat the rates, under US$50 per day for a hospital room compared to $500. a day at a Belize private hospital.

There are seven other public hospitals in Belize, including three regional hospitals - the Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga, the Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk Town, and the Western Regional Hospital in the nation's capital The City Of Belmopan. Altogether, there are about 700 public hospital beds in Belize.

The public hospitals provide basic medical specialties: internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics and OB-GYN. Karl Heusner Memorial also provides neurology, ENT, physiotherapy, orthopedic surgery and several other services. The quality of these hospitals varies considerably. Karl Heusner Memorial - named after a prominent Belize City German physician in colonial era Belize opened in 1997 and has modern equipment, such as a CAT-scan, though some Belizeans and expats complain that even this hospital is chronically short of supplies, and the imaging equipment is often non functional. It is not uncommon for patients at this main referral hospital to be told they need to do certain lab tests at a private facility as the hospital laboratory has run out of a reagent or a piece of equipment is non functional. Adding to the KHMH's woes is a politically controlled board of directors and the load it must handle from the high crime rate in Belize City.

The Western Regional Hospital in The City Of Belmopan is about the next best in Belize after the KHMH. It opened almost 30 years ago but has gone through several renovations and additions. In 2011 it expanded to four operating theaters, added a dental clinic, and computerized its health records system. This alone adds a lot of efficiency as returning patients can be more easily diagnosed by retrieving their health profile and prescription information 24/7. The hospital is well staffed by Belizean, and volunteer health care professionals from Cuba and the U.S.

The Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga, which opened in 2000, is another modern facility, with much of the same medical technologies and equipment as you'd find in a community hospital in a North American town. Other hospitals leave a lot to be desired. The Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk for example, looks more like a refugee camp than a hospital, with low cinder block buildings and limited equipment.

The Corozal Town Hospital has become a joke of a clinic and most residents in the area cross the border to seek medical attention at a Mexican government of private health care facility.

Several small medical clinics, one essentially a small hospital, operate on Ambergris Caye. Besides these hospitals, Belize has a network of around 60 public health clinics and rural health posts in many towns and villages around the country, providing primary medical and dental care. Most of these suffer from inadequate staffing, too many patients for their available resources and lack of equipment and medicine. Doctors may diagnose health problems, but they may not be able to provide the proper medications.

In addition to these public hospitals and clinics, Belize has three private hospitals La Loma Luz, a private institution run by the Seventh Day Adventist mission in Santa Elena near San Ignacio, Belize Medical Associates, a private facility in Belize City, and Universal Health Services also in Belize City. Altogether these private hospitals have about 100 hospital beds.

Belize Medical Associates has become the hospital of choice for the Belize elite due to its higher level cadre of doctors and equipment. Several well qualified government medical specialists are known to moonlight here to supplement their meagre government salaries. Universal Health Services is also a good choice for private medical care. When the Prime Minister's law partner was recently injured for e.g., he was rushed to the Belize Universal Health Services bypassing the government controlled KHMH next door. There are also a number of physicians and dentists in private practice, mostly in Belize City. Starting in the late 1990s, health care in Belize got a boost, thanks to the arrival of a group of several dozen medical volunteers from Cuba and Nigeria. As of 2011 more than 100 Cuban nurses and physicians are in Belize.

Dentists and medical doctors make a very good living in Belize. Those who can afford it, immediately specialize in fields such as orthopedic dentistry, gastroenterology, internal medicine or cardiology to cater to the Belize elite. A few dentists, especially those in Belize city, shun regular dentistry for cosmetic dentistry such as braces and tooth whitening. As an example a Belize dentist will make $25. pulling a tooth during a 30 minute procedure. Adjusting braces will earn him / her $100. for a 20 minute procedure.

But in most towns and even Belize city, the cost of dental procedures is well below that of North America - roughly about half the cost.

Most private medical institutions in Belize accept medical insurance plans. Best advice is to call before making an appointment.

Due to the relatively high cost of high-level medical care in Belize, many Belizeans and expats repair to Chetumal (Mexico) and Melchor-Flores (Guatemala) for more affordable medical and dental care.

Most physicians and dentists in Belize are trained in the U.K., Cuba, U.S., and Guatemala and Mexico. There are two offshore medical schools in Belize, but their graduates usually practice in the U.S. A nursing school forms part of the University of Belize and trains nurses for work in Belize. Belize trained nurses are in high demand in the U.S. to the point that recruiters visit Belize every year trying to entice these health professionals to leave Belize. While many expats do go to Guatemala, or to Chetumal or Mérida, Mexico, for specialized treatment, others who can afford it go to Houston, Miami, New Orleans or elsewhere in the U.S.

 

INFORMATION COURTESY BELIZE.COM LTD….. (Retrieved from their website at www.belize.com)

 

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