Guest Editorial: Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Lisa M. Shoman

The KHMH is not even 23 years old. Its doors were opened in September of 1995. It’s probably a good thing Dr. Karl Heusner isn’t alive to see what the edifice named after him has become, and I can only imagine the embarrassment it is to his living relatives.
When we build a home, we certainly expect it to last in excellent condition (with some sensible maintenance and repair) for at least 25 years. Apparently, we were not entitled to assume the same for the building which houses nation’s primary referral health institution.
We Jewelizeans love to run mean jokes about what the acronym KHMH stands for, but the truth is, for all save the wealthy 1%, the KHMH is the frontline for saving lives in Belize.
It is supposed to be the best-equipped place in the nation for any health issue, crisis or emergency. Its website lauds the institution in grandiose terms as follows, “Today, KHMH is the country’s flagship hospital providing tertiary care for the entire country and serving as the secondary care hospital for the Central Health Region.”
When my 98-year-old Mamita fell off the concrete walkway in her yard, running out to watch dudes on motorbikes, it was the KHMH that we rushed her to.
It was the patient nurses in A&E who endured her shockingly salty imprecations and who showed her loving care while she was there, convincing my willful grandmother that she was in a private hospital. It was one very patient surgical team, led by a Cuban orthopedic specialist who labored hours to insert 3 screws and who ruefully showed me the callouses afterwards. And it didn’t cost us a fortune.
It was here that my arm, broken 5 days before the 2003 election, was carefully pinned by our own Dr. Francis Smith, impressing the George Washington University Hospital doctors in DC, with his skill. I still have full extension.
I could never say anything bad about the personnel at the KHMH. They are superb.
Too bad the hospital building is a pile of rubble-in-waiting. It was painful to watch the CEO of the KHMH on Channel 7 News admit that his hospital building is deeply compromised: Dr. Adrian Coye, CEO – KHMH, “The service’s core to the functions of a hospital have all been affected in different ways. So, in a general way of understanding, it’s like a multi-organ failure within the institution.”
The worst part is that since 2008, the Board knew. Apparently, the condition of the roof at the KHMH has been documented in the minutes of Board meetings going back to 2008.
CEO Coye admits that “Listen, from the time this hospital opened the roof has leaked, okay. From the time the hospital opened, and the first rain came, the water went through the walls. These are legends, but it’s not leakage of the roof that has led to the structural challenge that we now have.”
So now we know. It was built and then opened in 1995 and the roof was already problematic.
Word is that a US engineering team have quietly come and gone; condemning the building. Now we have reportedly sent for a Mexican team of engineers. For what? So that the KHMH can be condemned in two languages?
The GOB is now, is in the face of this cataclysm, shopping for a second opinion hoping for a different diagnosis of the terminal disease. And knowing all this, what did our government do? It spent 30 million on a shiny new toy that we can’t afford to play with. And that we have to get foreign experts to help us run. Maybe we should have built a new hospital building and let the outside experts run that.
Now our national referral hospital is going into hospice care. And we are sick about it. And the worst part is that doctors, nurses, and staff have to worry about chunks of the roof falling on their head while politicians pretend that it’s not so bad.
According to Channel 7 News: “There is no known timeline for the Mexican engineers to arrive. The Ministry of Health says they will be here this week, they are aware it’s urgent and they have received structural plans to review before getting here.”
Anybody feel better now? Hard hats, bandages, and all-hands-on-deck. Just hope the roof does not fully collapse in the meantime.
All the Kings horses and all the King’s men…

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