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Opposition skeptical on National Health Insurance expansion in Orange Walk; P.M. issues defense

Posted: Tuesday, March 21, 2023. 1:17 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As the 2023-24 Budget was presented two weeks ago, Prime Minister John Briceño listed a number of high-priority areas outlined for additional investments. Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow shared some issues he has with the additional investments being made in some of these areas, particularly where National Health Insurance (NHI) in the Prime Minister’s native Orange Walk District is concerned.

Speaking on the $7 million estimated price tag for expansion of the service, Barrow said it is “nothing” “because our healthcare system is in shatters. It is not me that is saying because I am the leader of the opposition. It is what the health care professionals, public, private, health care professionals, unionist in the medical field has been protesting, complaining about for some time now. So, what does NHI really mean? It is like you are giving someone nothing, because you go to the public health care facility and they can’t treat your wounds, can’t give you gaue. I mean it’s so pathetic so it is not impressive to start.”

In response, the Prime Minister said it means the world to the over 30 thousand residents expected to benefit as their fellows in Corozal, Belize City, and Toledo already have: “This is for the entire district; Corozal is about close to $7 million too. And what we have done – for instance, when the UDP introduced NHI in the Corozal District, it was limited – it was not the entire district, one; second, it was limited in services. Once we went in, with the very same budget, we managed to increase, cover the entire district with a lot more services than the UDP was providing.”

In all, the P.M. said, it is a “great and massive accomplishment” that NHI now covers 269 thousand Belizeans in four districts.

NHI general manager Dr Ramon Figueroa told reporters last week that the $7 million estimated for the rollout assumes coverage of between 49 and 60 thousand Orange Walk residents, adjusted for inflation.

Orange Walk District has been divided into five zones – two covering Orange Walk Town and the others the rural areas, and a tendering process was established to draw bids for contract providers of services. The final bids were accepted last week after review and next will be formal proposals as to how services will be provided.

Dr Figueroa also mentioned that a specialized clinic for the elderly will be set up similar to Belize City Northside’s Mercy Clinic run by the Sisters of Mercy, which he called a model for the Caribbean. The cost to provide services for the elderly, he said, is three times the cost of what it costs to provide services for normal individuals.


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