The People’s United Party (PUP) launched its health plan this morning via a virtual presentation led by the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno. Prior to unveiling its plans for the health sector Briceno had interactions with several stakeholders in the sector including medical practitioners. One of those persons was Dr Victor Rosado, a local pediatrician who says he has observed a failing health system in Belize.
Dr.Victor Rosado, Pediatrician: “I think from a medical perspective we are really struggling. I think the Director of Health Services has hinted at that over the last two interviews that he has given and the press release put out by Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital over the weekend confirms that we’re struggling. Our health system is buckling under the pressure of the new cases. I think we failed to utilize the last three or four months that we had to build up our surge capacity. It should have been used to hire new staff, to put in place the resources both human and physical resources to deal with more cases. We failed to beef up the district hospitals so we are seeing district hospitals are sending all of their moderate and severe cases to Karl Heusner and Karl Heusner is being overwhelmed. We know that they had to transfer their entire emergency system – their emergency room – to another area of the hospital and so I definitely think that we’re struggling and this is not over. This second wave will get bigger because our testing capacity is also failing. So we have some difficult times ahead.”
Also commenting on the current situation in health was Senator Isabel Bennett who has worked in the nursing community. According to Bennett she is concerned over the challenges and the mental health of nurses.
Senator Isabel Bennet: “I can tell you Party Leader that they’re not coping very well. Our nurses the ones that I’ve been in contact with completely always reporting high levels of stress, the shortage of PPEs and it seems that there’s an inability for the administration to listen to the recommendation coming from nurses that are actually working at the forefront of our country. It’s not a very good time for them and I do hope that whatever recommendation that we give to the oversight committee that they can listen and actually do things that will benefit nurses as they work right now.”
In this morning’s virtual presentation the PUP also looked at the economic hardships that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the country. Opposition Leader Briceno leaned on Christopher Coye to speak on the Government’s response to the pandemic and the efforts they have since made with the Central Bank and the local banks.
Christopher Coye, Economist: “I think as far as the government’s overall response to be frank it’s been unclear. I think that the Central Bank has taken an initiative to create liquidity in the banking system but it hasn’t gone far enough so the interest rates in the banking system have remained high and in order to enable economic activity to come about it’s important that interest rates be reduced substantially from where it currently is and so the Central Bank has to play a very aggressive role in bringing interest rates down, in taking non traditional action. In many ways how what was done in the great depression the type of action that needs to be taken is whatever action can be done must be done to get the country moving again that’s the kind of resolve what’s referred to as the Rooseveltian resolve to get this country’s economy moving again.”
Coye also made comments on the subsistence and assistance being given to the unemployed. He says while it is okay to help the unemployed there is a greater need to push the banks to drop interest rates and for the Government to put more focus on the private sector.
Christopher Coye, Economist: “So basic subsistence I think the unemployment relief program and the food assistance program much of those are necessary and in the current circumstances but at the same time what is missed is the focus on the private sector in trying to engineer the private sector’s recovery and I go back to what I had been discussing early as far as interest rates I think not nearly enough is being done or has been done with respect to getting the interest rates down. I think the effort in terms of DFC the $10 million at 6% that’s really a drop in the bucket as to what really needs to be done so far as getting the private sector and the overall economy moving, getting the creation of jobs through the private sector that in addition to what government could be doing from a public sector standpoint to create jobs as well. So I would say that a lot more needs to be done and a lot more within the financial system and the banking sector in particular can be done to help to restart this economy and to get us to full economic recovery.”
According to Coye his advice to the Belizean people is to stay positive, don’t hoard your money and support each other.
Christopher Coye, Economist: “I think that the essence what a lot of people tend not to appreciate is this basic statement that your spending is my income and my spending is your income so it’s important that you actually have a level of optimism and be willing to spend not to hoard. So as a working family and working families on a whole it’s important to be productive as I think earlier in the year you had a lot of Belizeans for good or for bad looking at ways to spend money in Belize to in effect create economic activity that’s an important part for our economic future, it’s important that we have the level of optimism that we can spend because we expect that we will continue to generate income going forward and that that will continue. With that initial premise that I mentioned that my spending is your income that will reverberate throughout the economy and allow that the economy to recover. What we have ultimately then is to have to believe in ourselves and believe in our future and that a better day will come.”
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader, People’s United Party: “We’ve been hearing a lot about our front line workers, the Prime Minister making a lot of promises that the front line workers are going to be taken care of but yet we’re hearing different. We’ve just been in touch with the Karl Heusner Union and they feel they’ve been abandoned ,what do you think is the financial situation of our nurses right now during this pandemic when their expected to be on the front line and feeling as if there’s no back up for them should get get sick ?”
“Quite frankly the feeling is mutual across the public sector at the moment because as we speak there are nurses that need to rent apart from their family because accommodation was promised as well they retracted their statements as well so it’s a real financial burden. I mean most of us have to commute in our private motor vehicle which is also a bit more costly especially those that are out district so the feeling of being alone and not having the support of your employer is also it has a mental toll on the healthcare providers.”
These presentations were part of the health manifesto presented by the PUP. Among those promises made are the full roll-out the National Health Insurance program to the entire nation within the first term in government as well as the commitment to have all health facilities upgraded. We will have more on the PUP’s health plan later in this newscast.