The Truth About Medical Care In Belize
Belize is many good things and recognized for many advantages and attractions, but medical care is not typically one of them. As we’ve reported in the past, if international-standard health care is a top priority for you, you have better options. One exception to this could be to base yourself in northern Belize, around Corozal, specifically the Bay of Chetumal. Here, you’re near enough to Chetumal, Mexico, to count on the top-notch medical facilities in that city for care when you need it. Elsewhere in Belize, though, again, the available medical services can be limited and basic.
At least that has been the reality until now.
Now, healthcare options in this country are improving, and the government has made this a priority. Specifically, the government has set medical tourism as an agenda, recognizing this as an important potential source of visitors and revenues and understanding that real world-standard medical care is a top priority for retirees.
Step one in the related efforts to developing medical tourism in Belize has been to task the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (Beltraide) to make a plan. Beltraide has brought in a consultant from Costa Rica to help create a blueprint based on the successful development of medical tourism in that country.
The basics of a program have been outlined:
- Belizean medical hospitals and clinics will be upgraded to meet accredited international healthcare standards…
- Medical tourism facilities will be established throughout the country so that a patient anywhere in the country could be delivered to a critical care facility within 30 minutes. This will necessitate improvements in road and air infrastructure…
- 24-hour critical care hospitals will be established on Ambergris Caye and in Placencia…
- International medical specialists will be allowed to practice in Belize but will be required to work jointly with and to train Belizean doctors…
- International doctors who elect to come to the country to work with new medical tourism facilities will enjoy special income tax and import duty breaks. The timing is perfect to attract disenchanted American doctors to come and open facilities in Belize…
- A new medical school will be opened, probably near Belmopan…
- Hotels/resorts catering to medical tourists will be required to have trained nurses on staff…
- Belizean doctors will be incentivized to return to Belize and practice here…
Meantime, progress is being made on the ground already:
- The Belize government has identified and secured rights to purchase property on Ambergris Caye for the location of the planned future 24-hour critical care hospital. Services at the San Pedro Polyclinic have been upgraded. Doctors are on call at all hours.
- The first open-heart surgery ever to be performed in Belize took place last year. Several heart surgeries were performed by a Belizean physician, Dr. Adrian Coye, who moved back to Belize to initiate such services about two years ago. Dr. Coye worked with an integrated team of international heart surgeons and Belizeans doctors at Karl Huesner Medical Hospital in Belize City.
- The first ever complex scoliosis surgery was performed in Belize in the summer of 2012. That surgery was performed by Dr. Joel Cervantes, Chief of the Spine and Neurosurgery Center at Karl Huesner Medical Hospital, where the surgery took place, and President of Belize’s Medical and Dental Association. Dr. Cervantes and his team worked with a team of peers from Canada and the United States.
Separate from medical tourism, there are a number of advantages related to healthcare in Belize that expats should consider, in looking at the big picture:
The price is reasonable, and doctors are accessible.
Doctors in Belize treat patients with compassion and spend whatever time is needed to understand your healthcare issue. A doctor in Belize will give his patient his personal cell phone number. Most of the doctors are general practitioners, meaning they are well versed in a broad range of healthcare problems. They are similar to the American doctors of 50 years ago, when doctors regularly visited sick patients at their home.
You can visit a clinic here in the morning for X-rays or blood tests and have the results by that afternoon. Similarly, dentists often perform much of the necessary services at their offices. And my optometrist makes my new prescription glasses on-site within a few hours. We’re used to same-day service in Belize.
Many drugs are available to purchase over the counter, without a prescription.
My personal experience with healthcare as an expat in this country for more than five years? Frankly, it has far exceeded my expectations. I had to have emergency hip surgery two years ago. To be honest, I was nervous, even scared. But I had no choice. The surgery had to be done immediately.
And it was, in Belize City. The care I received was, frankly, outstanding, and the outcome of the surgery was everything I could have hoped for. I’m as mobile as ever!
Image source: Asteiner