Healthcare in Belize

 

 

Unlike its neighbours Central American countries like Mexico and Guatemala, the healthcare system in Belize is still a developing and struggling one. In a word, healthcare in the country is inadequate, failing to attend to the more serious medical conditions of its citizens. 

It is true that the quality of medical facilities and services in this country is far from what you will see in most Western and European countries, but the private healthcare sector can be considered as dependable. Belize City is where you will find the highest level of medical care since it houses the country’s largest population and a majority of the international community. Overall healthcare in Belize is delivered by both the private and the public sectors under the supervision of the Ministry of Health. Today, MOH continues to strive in providing quality services to the people through several public institutions and programmes. 

The Private Health Sector and Insurance 

Under the Belizean government legislation, all residents of the country (including foreign nationals) are entitled to free medical care from government-run hospitals around the country. However, funding of the public health system has always been a problem, especially to the facilities outside of the city that's why expats and some locals choose to go to private hospitals. However, since it is private, patients are required to pay out of their own pockets or through a health insurance. Private healthcare is often limited only to those who can afford it, especially foreign nationals. 

Expats residing in Belize are recommended to take out private health insurance instead to cover their stay in the country. Private health insurance in Belize is a must for many people, including foreign nationals because relying on the standard of healthcare in public hospitals might only bring disappointment, especially if one is in a dire medical situation. 

Doctors and Medical Services 

While public hospitals give out free medical care, most expats prefer to seek medical treatment in private clinics around the country. There are also some who go to Merida and Chetumal in the Mexican state of Yucatan, or to Guatemala City. Almost three-quarters of the healthcare workers in Belize are employed in the public healthcare sector, but shortages in medical personnel still continue to be a huge problem. There is only one physician available for every 1,000 patients. The private health sector, on the other hand, employs only a quarter of the country’s health personnel, but compared to public hospitals, facilities, medical equipment and services are better in the private sector. 

Hospitals are also overflowing, and medical supplies are inadequate which leaves doctors with few options when treating patients. Healthcare is also said to be unevenly distributed, with the majority of medical personnel concentrated in Belize City and emergency services limited to urban areas. Those who need more serious medical attention opt to go into Mexico, where facilities are more up-to-date and medical services better. On the other hand, public medical services in Belize are affordable, with hospital stays costing about US$7.50 a day. 

Hospitals in Belize 

A large portion of the government healthcare funding goes to Belize City which is the reason why the capital is where expats will find the most number of developed hospitals and clinics. There are also seven hospitals located outside of Belize City whereas each provide public healthcare. Out of the seven district hospitals are three regional hospitals namely the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan, Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga and Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk Town. Currently, the only premier public healthcare hospital in the country is the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) which is located in Belize City.

 

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