By Javan Flowers
The KHMH Workers’ Union calls on the Government of Belize to invest in current medical facilities before spending $90 million on a new facility.
The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Authority Workers’ Union (KHMHWU) issued a release on Thursday to ask the government to reconsider the plan to build a new, tertiary-level hospital in Belmopan before addressing and resolving the ongoing issues facing the existing healthcare facilities.
The KHMHWU’s release highlighted their grave concerns regarding the rationale and timing for constructing the proposed tertiary hospital. They vehemently disagree with the move, citing that the existing physical plant structure of the KHMHA was built with the vision for future expansion of the facility to accommodate an ever-growing population.
"We have not been given a chance by successive governments to reach our full potential,” the union’s release added. “Instead, we have been stymied by political interference in terms of collection of revenue, and our development and ability to serve have been chained to a subvention that has been slow to adjust to the global context of cost."
As it stands, the union underscored that the KHMHA currently has a human resource shortage of 50 nurses and 20 doctors, as well as other healthcare professionals. According to the union, this is a matter that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has yet to address.
They explained that the facility is also experiencing severe shortages of services such as medical and nursing services, physiotherapy, bio-medical technicians, imaging services, laboratory technicians, radiographers, and many essential supplies and equipment that impact the quality of healthcare services rendered.
The release continued by noting how a $90,000,000 investment could strengthen and resolve issues within Belize's healthcare system.
The union explained that the money could be directed towards capacity building for nursing education and training doctors and other healthcare workers to reduce staff replacement due to attrition.
It could also be utilized to strengthen and develop its key areas of internal medicine, hemodialysis, oncology, cardiology (inclusive of intervention cardiology & cardiovascular surgery), neurology, and urology, among a laundry list of other areas, which also included bolstering infrastructure, including making it better able to withstand a category-2 hurricane.
Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño explained the need to construct the hospital at the last sitting of the House of Representatives.
"Belize's national referral hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, was built over thirty years ago [thus] I don't think anyone needs to be convinced that the KHMH is no longer at its best to meet increasing demands at both national and regional level."
In responding to criticisms from the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister also made the case that the move is to help reduce the need for persons from the western and southern parts of the country to move all the way to Belize City for tertiary care.
Additionally, the Prime Minister indicated that the new facility in Belmopan would be helpful in times of natural disasters such as hurricanes. In those instances, he argued that it would be possible to relocate patients inland instead of keeping them at KHMH, which is close to the Belize City coastline.