A Look at the Healthcare System of Belize
Health Care Organization & Delivery
February 19, 2010
Belize is a small country on the northeast coast of Central America bordering Mexico and Guatemala. The country has a tropical climate that is very humid. The total country population of Belize is estimated around 301,270 spread out among 6 districts. The country of Belize, #156 on the list of GDP rankings between countries, is a country that has sufficient healthcare at a low cost. The Belizean economy is based primarily on agriculture and services. The 1996 per capita income was $2,308 (US dollars). A 1995 Poverty Assessment report concluded that 24% of males and 31% of females lived in poverty. Indigence varies across the six districts with the Toledo District (where a majority of Maya live) having a 58% poverty rate (Smith, Carol A.M., A Country Report on Women’s Health, Belize, Central America.) The healthcare in Belize isn’t the best, not even up to European standards but there are doctors in almost every town in the country and they are well capable to handle most emergencies and illnesses. The healthcare there is inexpensive also. The Belizean government spends only 9% of its budget on healthcare, 6.6% less than what the U.S. spends on healthcare per year. Regrettably, as the saying goes, cheaper isn’t always better. The Belize healthcare system lacks a lot of the things that would make it strong, as well as affordable.
In the 1990’s, Belize employed a healthcare system that provided health services that was available for all citizens and paid for by the government. Due to mismanagement and lack of access, in 1996 the Prime Minister implemented a national health plan. The outcome of these changes was to be universal access to a set of comprehensive health services of acceptable quality, through primary health care (Pan American Health Organization, 1999). Now, with the new plan in place, healthcare professionals now tried to address some of the existing problems in their system. Through a participatory process, the Plan identified five programmatic areas for achieving goals: environmental health; early childhood; late childhood and adolescence; early and late adulthood; and sports. The decentralization referred to above was difficult at first. People were used to the government “taking care” of them, and did not always understand the role of the community in decision-making (Pan American Health Organization, 1999). The new system required coordination between both public and private segments for the delivery of care, and it became the responsibility of the health ministry to supply policies for these activities. District health teams were formed to focus on health related goals and primary health care. The purpose of these teams was to promote community participation but they really had no budget to support their operations. In the year 2000, an amendment was made to the Social Security Act that provided health care insurance for all citizens of Belize.
What’s covered? What’s not covered?
This national healthcare system pays the entire cost of all visits to the doctor that were in a clinical setting. It also covered almost all prescription costs, parental care, tooth extractions, and vaccines. The vaccines include all of the standard vaccines infants in the U.S. get including BCG for TB. Transportation to places such as Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. for certain cancer treatments and complicated procedures are covered by the national plan. If a citizen of Belize wants to have elective surgery performed, they may be able to have this done by volunteer doctors from the U.S. Patients must pay for CT scans themselves but only in Belize City and procedures such as MRI’s are not yet available in Belize, therefore they are not covered. Something that is a commonly debated issue in...
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