Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Construction of the San Pedro and Caye Caulker General Hospital commences with a groundbreaking ceremony


Residents and visitors of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are one step closer to having reliable healthcare services. More than a year after the official announcement of the San Pedro and Caye Caulker General Hospital, the Government of Belize hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, March 1st, to mark the start of construction. This $33 million project is made possible through a grant from the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Government officials, Caye Caulker Village Council Chairlady Seleny Villanueva-Pott, invited guests and island residents made their way to the hospital’s future site on Coconut Drive. The hospital will be constructed less than two miles south of the San Pedro town core on a 4.5-acre property.
The ceremony started shortly after 10 AM with the Mistress of Ceremony, Natalie Arceo, leading everyone to sing the Belize and Taiwan National Anthems. Father Edwardo Montemayor of the San Pedro Catholic Church then delivered a short invocation of thanksgiving.
San Pedro Town Mayor Gualberto “Wally” Nunez delivered the opening remarks. The mayor spoke on the significance of this milestone for the island. “We are honored to witness this event. This hospital will help improve access to health care and save countless lives by providing critical medical care during emergencies. Currently, residents of San Pedro must be airlifted during emergencies, wasting critical time, which is crucial in life and death situations,” said Nunez. As an on-call emergency pilot for the past 20 years, Nunez stated he had witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of inaccessible medical services. He reminisced on the island’s economic growth over the years and how a proper healthcare facility is desperately needed. “San Pedro residents have yearned for access to critical life-saving care for decades. This hospital is much needed and will serve the medical needs of the town’s residents and those in the surrounding area. We are grateful for the generous support of the Taiwanese Government and their commitment to helping Belize improve the quality of life of its citizens.”
Minister of Health and Wellness, Honorable Kevin Bernard, then took to the podium, applauding the current Government administration for their dedication to enhancing the healthcare infrastructure across Belize. “We are gathered here not just to celebrate the construction of a building but the embodiment of hope, the promise of progress, and the commitment to the well-being of our communities in San Pedro and Caye Caulker. We pledge to ensure every Belizean has access to quality healthcare despite their geographic location,” said Bernard.
Speaking on behalf of the Tawain Government was Taiwan’s Ambassador to Belize, Her Excellency Lily Li-Wen Hsu. She discussed how the project began after the Prime Minister of Belize, Honorable John Briceno, visited Taiwan in 2022. “Here we are, ready to get this project up and running. It is truly gratifying to witness the vision of our two nations’ leaders come to life,” said Ambassador Hsu.
She explained that the project was first solidified by signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between GOB and Taiwan to construct the island’s first general hospital on January 11, 2023. Months later, on April 3, 2023, Taiwanese President, Her Excellency Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen, presented the official design model for the San Pedro and Caye Caulker General Hospital during a historic visit to Belize. Since then, planning and further consultation have been taking place leading up to the start of construction. “This is a collaborative effort. We are taking on an important task in implementing this project. Health is integral to the quality of life. As a development partner of Belize, Taiwan knows well that the Government of Belize attaches great importance to the health and well-being of its people. We have been working hand in hand to address health challenges and meet the needs of Belize. We are pleased and honored to collaborate in constructing this much-needed hospital,” said Ambassador Hsu.
Prime Minister Briceno also emphasized the importance of health and how GOB, under his administration, has been working towards bringing accessible healthcare to all Belizeans. The construction of a new hospital in San Pedro was one of the promises in the current Government’s ‘Plan Belize’ agenda. “The health care issue has always been on the minds of Belizeans. I can recall the numerous times Honorable Andre Perez (Area Representative of Belize Rural South) told me the people of Sa Pedro deserved their hospital. In Plan Belize, we said the vision that drives the PUP (People’s Unite Party) includes the creation of an environment in which everyone can access adequate health care.” said Briceno. He added that the hospital will serve the residents and visitors as San Pedro’s tourism grows, adding to the island’s development. “Everyone must be healthy to produce and fend for themselves and their families. We must keep our community healthy, and this hospital is a step in the right direction.”
The Area Representative for San Pedro and Caye Caulker, Honorable Andre Perez, closed off the morning’s agenda. “This is history in the making. This is a commitment delivered through the continuous work of many key partners. The people of San Pedro and Caye Caulker have long felt isolated from proper medical care, but now we have been heard,” said Perez.
The SPTC then presented Ambassador Hsu with a token of appreciation on behalf of the San Pedro people. Mayor Wally also pledged to name the road to the hospital “Taiwanese Avenue” after its benefactors once the project is complete. Officials then performed the ceremonial breaking of the ground as those in attendance showered them with applause.

The construction will be carried out by the Overseas Engineering & Construction Company (OECC). The US$16,678,680 contract with OECC was signed on February 16, 2024, for the general hospital’s design, construction, and equipping. OECC is a Taiwanese company with operations mainly focused on constructing government aid and humanitarian aid infrastructures designed to improve the living environment, create jobs, and contribute to increased economic growth.
An exact timeline for completion was not made available. However, the San Pedro and Caye Caulker General Hospital is believed to be operational by the coming year.

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