Dr. Lesbia Guerra
This morning I begin by recognizing the hard work of public health professionals everywhere.
COVID 19 has stripped health systems naked and exposed their weaknesses. The pandemic has made it more difficult for people, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable among us, to meet their basic needs. As a region we remain particularly vulnerable because of high levels of labor informality, poverty, inequality, and weak health and social protection systems. Belize is no exception.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that it is time to rethink the way of doing things. A central element in building a fair and just society is the right to healthcare with an urgent need for policies of greater scope and depth which will address the social determinants of health, particularly food and nutritional health requirements.
Public health must address the challenges of confronting health issues in relation to political, social, and economic factors, not only at the community and national levels, but at the regional and global levels as well. At the end of the day, public health is also political.
It is important that a process aimed at improving public health be based on sound scientific evidence. We will only be successful if we trust the credible scientific evidence of public health professionals. It is in this capacity and with the moral authority that I join in supporting a health policy that will undoubtfully uplift the quality of life and well-being of each and every Belizean. This policy will result in less poverty that is afflicting our country, and it seeks to narrow down gaps in accessing healthcare.
For the PUP health care is a fundamental human right and a public good that must be guaranteed to all. Hence, a PUP government will advocate for a health policy involving a comprehensive and universal system of primary health care and social protection.
This translates to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for every Belizean.
The latest data shows that 126,183 Belizeans are enrolled in the NHI. This doesn’t include Belizeans from North Side Belize City, Cayo, Orange Walk and Stann Creek Districts and most of the Corozal District.
This lag in its extension to the rest of the country has clearly generated inequalities, leaving 70% of Belizeans, to pay for their health care, whether through our impoverished public health institutions or through private health insurance.
A PUP led government will enact legislation that will define the National Health Insurance Fund to guarantee the financial sustainability of the scheme and will clearly define the role of all stakeholders involved. The PUP, under the leadership of Hon John Briceño, has listened to the voice of the poor which resounds in cries for change. Briceño and his team have embarked on fulfilling this vision with courage, political will, and determination to make sure that Belize gets the healthcare that it deserves.
A child from Arenal village out west, who gets a high fever and abdominal pain will no longer have to travel more than 10 miles to access medical care.
A sick person from Jalacte in the Toledo district will likewise have that same opportunity to receive quality health care, just as a patient from anywhere else in Belize.
Each and every Belizean nationwide will be protected from enduring dire financial hardship due to catastrophic illnesses such as end stage chronic kidney disease, cancer and so on.
It is time to invest in our people and their wellbeing in order to create prosperous and solid communities. We must spend carefully in order to reach out to as many people as possible.
A Fiscal Space and Costing Analysis studies conducted in Belize in July 2019 and October 2019 respectively with the support of PAHO/MOH/NHI identified areas of real budgetary opportunity, and provided recommendation on funding, capable of enhancing coverage and reducing equity gaps. Furthermore, three health packages of incremental NHI coverage have been presented along with possible scenarios in its implementation. We must take heed of these recommendations.
Keep in mind that as our country transitions to subsequent phases in the COVID-19 response, the role of primary healthcare remains crucial. Accessible healthcare needs to be continuous, and appropriate to the needs of the patients and the community. It must be well-integrated into the broader health system, in order to respond rapidly to emerging hotspots if we are to control the spread of the virus.
We say investing in a resilient Primary Healthcare system will not only help us weather the ongoing crisis but better position Belize’s healthcare system in adapting and responding to whatever new challenges we face, reaching out to every single Belizean man, woman, and child.
The People’s United Party will do what is necessary to make the plans I laid out for you come to fruition. We are committed to its achievement.
Let us now act to make Universal Health Coverage a reality.
Let us make it a more efficient and equitable system where everyone will be a part of our National Health Insurance.