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‘Supplies are not free’: Patients continue to rack PPE medical charges in the thousands

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Posted: Monday, February 1, 2021. 5:25 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Ministry of Health and Wellness has seemingly signed off on the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Authority (KHMHA) charging patients for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when receiving care at public facilities.

Responding to questions today from BBN about exorbitant PPE charges, Minister of Health and Wellness Michel Chebat would only say: “Supplies issued to patients are not free.”

When BBN broke the story last week, several patients had reached out stating that the hospital authority was charging $200 per unit of PPE used while receiving care. The bills showed PPE charges racked up in the thousands of dollars apart from patients’ primary reason of visit.

Since then more patients have come forward to share their story, one, a diabetic patient from Punta Gorda who was first transfered to Dangriga before reaching the KHMH. She was given a bill $6,627 of which the service charge for PPE use was a staggering $4,800. The family says the KHMH has informed they can arrange a payment plan but they are still unable to afford the cost, which they say is unreasonably high.

Some patients have complained that the cost is unfair because they were of the impression that the KHMH received PPEs through donations from international partners.

BBN contacted the U.S. Embassy Belmopan regarding the issue. “To help combat COVID-19 in Belize, the U.S. government has directly donated Реrѕоnаl Рrоtесtіvе Еquірmеntѕ (РРЕѕ) to medical service providers at Central Medical Lab and transported PPEs on U.S. military aircrafts from U.S. nonprofits to support the first responders at the Nаtіоnаl Еmеrgеnсу Маnаgеmеnt Оrgаnіzаtіоn (NЕМО),” a statement from the Embassy informed.

Meanwhile, the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) said, “The Embassy donated the Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) directly to the Ministry of Health and Wellness. We believe they will serve the good purpose of safeguarding the health and safety of all frontline medical services providers and first responders. Please direct further inquiry to the Ministry of Health and Wellness regarding the issue of the use of PPEs.”

BBN also learned that PPEs are available for purchase in-counrty with a retail cost of $75 per unit, and the wholesale value, depending on the quantity purchased, going as low as $60 per unit.

The KHMHA said last week that it is aware of the complaints regarding the price of the PPEs and that the matter is under review. The hospital authority is currently not making any comment about whether or not the PPEs being used are from donations or how the hospital authority arrived at a charge of $200 per unit. There is also no update at this time on whether or not there will be an actual reduction of the PPE charge, when such a change would be rolled out, or how much relief patients can expect.

In lieu of that clarification, patients visiting the KHMH for COVID-19 care can expect the PPE charge of $200 per unit in addition to their hospital bill.

BBN will keep following this story.

 

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