Petrocaribe money to fund 24-hour medical service on Ambergris Caye
Friday, December 5th, 2014
Over $700,000 has been allocated from the Petrocaribe funds to start the 24-hour medical service to the island’s only public health facility – The Dr Otto Rodriguez San Pedro PolyClinic II. The use of the funds were approved by the Prime Minister months ago but have been sitting in the government coffers ever since. Minister of Health Honorable Pablo Marin confirmed that the expansion of service will come into effect by the end of December, but has given December 15th as the targeted date. The Ministry of Health is speeding up the effort to put in place the mechanism to get the 24-hour service rolling.
In Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s debate contribution on November 18th, in justifying the Petrocaribe loan motion of $228 millions, he stated that monies will be used for a number of initiatives including the expansion of services at the public health facility on the island. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun on Tuesday December 2nd, Honorable Marin said that he is positive that by the end of December, the 24-hour service will be available. “We spoke to the media a few months ago, that we were going to open the clinic for 24 hours; the funds were already allocated. The problem that we encountered is that we have to source our doctors and nurses off the island, [but] we have identified who is coming. As you know, the cost of living on the island is totally different and so we had to take these things into consideration before sending additional personnel. We believe that by next week of the 15th of December, the 24-hour service should be up and going,” said Marin.
According to Marin, all the necessary steps have been taken to ensure the sustainability of the service for the long term. When asked what the delay in the decision was, since the monies were allocated months ago and he had promised that the service was to start in by September, Marin said, “The funds are now in place for us to employ the workers for the 24-hours service. It was not about disbursing the monies that was the delay, but the actual hiring of doctors and nurses who are willing to come to the island. In the past, when we sent doctors to the island, after being here, they realized it is expensive to live there and so they would move off the island. We had to work around that to get doctors to come,” explained Marin.
In addition to the current staff, the Ministry will now hire additional staff to allow uninterrupted medical services on the island. The auxiliary staff will be hired from the island, but the professional workers such as doctors and nurses will be hired from mainland Belize. In the longer term, the Ministry of Health is hoping that the students from Ambergris Caye that were given scholarships to study nursing and medicine will be brought to the island to contribute to the health sector.
The need for a 24-hour medical facility has been one of the major areas of concern that has been brought up on many forums by the thousands of islanders and tourism stakeholders. In the past, many families have seen sick and injured loved ones suffer and wait for hours until proper medical help could be accessed. Some have even witnessed the untimely death of a loved one while waiting for help. So the news of the opening of the medical facility for 24 hours is seen as a welcome “Christmas gift” to the residents of Ambergris Caye.
The Minister of Health also indicated that while the facility will be opened for 24 hours, the next step is to find a place and funding to convert the service from a clinic to a full-fledged hospital on the island.
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