‘Belize’s health sector in the south needs immediate attention’; this is the sentiment of well-known businessman, Darius Avila of Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District. Avila explained to our newsroom that he was hit personally by the weaknesses of the system this past weekend when he was faced with a medical emergency involving a family member. He noted that in the first instance he had to travel an estimated one hundred miles to the Southern Regional Hospital for the necessary medical care. In the second instance, he had to seek a private laboratory to the get the necessary tests done. In doing so, he found that the labs were only opened up until midday on Saturdays. It is a personal ordeal that he says urged him to speak out on the situation in the south.
Darius Avila, Businessman: My understanding is that both private laboratories close at midday on Saturdays and would not open to provide service until Monday so my mind started to race, what would happen if the doctors ordered some additional tests sometime late Saturday evening or even Sunday. What would happen to my patient. How could we get this test? Would I then have to run it up to Belmopan to get the test performed. So, all of these things ran through my mind, I realized that this was highly irregular and unacceptable and I started to think about the many patients who have to go through the medical system in the south and end up at the Southern Regional Hospital and I am aware that in the south we have in excess of sixty thousand persons living; the population is over sixty thousand; Stann Creek District and Toledo District combined and the Southern Regional Hospital is the referral hospital. It’s a higher level than any other medical facility in the south. In Punta Gorda there is a government lab at the hospital. I believe the only particular situation with that particular lab and why my patient had to be transferred to the Southern Regional Hospital is that they do not have the reagents to provide the medical test that the doctors needed at Punta Gorda Hospital and then at the Dangriga Southern Regional Hospital, likewise that Southern Regional Hospital is short of supplies and so they do have a lab as I understand it at the Southern Regional Hospital but they are short of several things and so it seems that for a long time now the protocol has been to send the tests to the private labs in Dangriga Town and unfortunately it is the patient’s relative who has to carry those tests from the Southern Regional Hospital to the private labs.
Businessman Avila says the lack of fully functional public labs, and the restrictions for health care in the south are coupled with the distance between available medical facilities.
Darius Avila, Businessman: “I decided to bring this concern so that our people in authority can look at our situation in the south as it relates to health care because this is not the only concern. We also have the situation where hundreds of patients are ferried between Punta Gorda Town and Southern Regional Hospital by ambulance . On a daily basis you see the ambulance up and down the Southern Highway. Can we see the inherent risks there? THe cost that is brought to bear, both emotionally, psychologically, financially on the system. Can we also see the potential for accidents and while trying to salvage a particular situation and life, that turns out to be an accident waiting to happen. So I am calling on our authorities to investigate what is happening to healthcare in our southern region. There is much to be desired and I am sure these investigations will reveal what those are; the deficiencies with a view to identify the recommendations and then of course the related actions. As a business person in Toledo, I will be more than happy to also assist in that area of information gathering, identifying recommendations and of course solutions to those recommendations.”
Avila says he has reached out to the authorities via an official letter.