Launch of the PUP Health Policy

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Remarks by Hon. John Briceño

Belize City, Wednesday 26th August 2020 — Two weeks ago, our Party presented a clear and bold policy.  It was the first roll out of #planBelize, which really was about the future.  We featured our Education Nation first because we believe that it is through education that we build Belize.

As you just heard, from day one in government, the next PUP government will aggressively work to fix our broken health system. While I will not dwell on this, it is important to point out the failures and shortcomings of the present administration. For sure it was not because of COVID that our people can’t afford basic medicine for diabetes or hypertension. The UDP had twelve long years to complete the rollout of NHI and did nothing.

We will never forget those 13 innocent babies who died at the KHMH because of their mismanagement. There was the raccoon falling from the ceiling and rats running around in incubators.

But what is most unforgivable is that through it all an incompetent Minister of Health, was given full reign to rule over the health system. Today we are beyond the breaking point and the task to fix the system will require serious work and will require more than an electrician.

You have heard the various parts of the program from our very talented doctors and nurses who have been advising us how to fix our health system in Belize. Together, we present to you today our solution for fixing this broken health system.

Our coronavirus response will take effect from day one.  It will ensure an adequate supply of essential materials for our frontline health workers. This will include Personal Protective Equipment, testing kits and reagents, and therapeutics, as well as the availability of proper guidelines and protocols for health professionals to do their work with confidence and without fear of being infected.

We must have the capacity to detect, investigate, communicate and contain events that threaten public health security; so there must be better public health surveillance. Also, we must improve our capacity at our laboratories across the nation so that we can get testing results faster. We need fast results to better analyse and react in a timely manner. We have seen the success of countries like Taiwan and how much they were able to flatten the curve in their own nation by rapid testing, and a strong awareness campaign about how to operate safely. Taiwan has been a true friend and ally and I intend to seek their advice and emulate some of their best practices in our own COVID response.

We also need to use technology to our advantage so that we can be more inclusive. We will promote the use of telemedicine and telehealth in the country so that all our doctors and nurses can work together to help patients.

Our planned response to this pandemic will address directly the Belizean people who will benefit from a reformed and more efficient system that starts with promoting greater awareness, including healthy living.

As you heard, the main focus of our #planBelize for Healthcare is the full roll out of NHI. The NHI program was started by the last PUP administration. Since then this UDP administration has done everything to diminish this program which was built especially to help struggling Belizeans. Today NHI is a shadow of what it once was, yet the high cost of healthcare is one of the biggest concerns of poor and middle-class Belizeans.

Let me reiterate that the next PUP government commits to provide universal primary health care, affordable and free at the point of delivery.

Our goal for the complete roll out of NHI is for every Belizean man, woman and child to be included. We will ask everybody to register so that they can be provided with annual medical exams.

The new NHI will guarantee optimum primary health care and management of our most frequent EXPENSIVE and DEVASTATING diseases attacking our nation such as COVID-19, dengue, diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, and cancer.

We will build a new wing for the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital to specifically deal with heart, kidney, and lung diseases.

We will establish a Public Health center for disease control, our own Belize Center for Disease Control.

For too long our Punta Gorda and Belmopan healthcare facilities have been abandoned, so our infrastructure priority will be on those first.

We will also build a Community Hospital for San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, with quality services for pregnant women and their newborn babies. It is time for the people of San Pedro to benefit from the taxes they pay to government.

I fully recognize the great need for us to address the mental health challenges we face across Belize. We must use technology to design and develop professional virtual mental wellness services in partnership with advocacy groups, NGOs, and schools. We can do this if we reach out through public/private partnerships and include regional partners in the effort to seriously address mental health.

We will bring down the cost of medicines especially for diabetes, and hypertension. If we can spend $180 million on one road, we must make it a priority for Belizeans to get inexpensive or where possible free basic lifesaving medications.

To this end within the first 100 days in office, I will instruct the Minister of Health to provide Cabinet with a paper to establish a government managed dispensary to provide low cost medicines for Belizeans who suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes.

In a time of crisis, we must retain, not fire, doctors, and provide them with basic and specialized equipment, incentives, and respect.

Our doctors, especially those in our public hospitals deserve better, they deserve more.

A major commitment of our #planBelize health policy will be the building of a separate and distinct Nurses and Allied Health School. Nurses, therapists, and care givers are the backbone of any health care facility. Nursing should be promoted as an attractive career choice with appropriate incentives and accepted as a base for an expanded role.

My government will embark from Day One on a sustained campaign to promote healthy living in order to avoid non-communicable diseases that are becoming more prevalent and at an earlier age.

Now I know you will be told by the dissenters that this is unaffordable, that is not true. From the data available, we find over forty million dollars being badly spent due mostly to waste and corruption. Currently over two million dollars in expired medicines are sitting in a container on the BDF compound. So we can find ways to better use what is already allocated.

And if we get our fair share of the profits from lottery and Boledo, we can move millions into financing our health program. We can afford to do this; in fact, I say we cannot afford not to do this.

Brothers and sisters, when I think about Healthcare, I think about FAMILIES for they are the backbone upon which our nation is built. My concern is that our families are falling apart and that your lives are on the line.  But we can change this, and we will.

In our party, we know that everybody will win when we confront COVID more aggressively.

Everybody will win when we put NHI at the front and center of our system.

Everybody will win when we build up new health spaces.

Everybody will win when we take care of each other, not just physically, but emotionally, and mentally.

Everybody will win when Belizeans no longer have to choose between their urgent medications and food or when they no longer have to stand at a round-a-bout with a sign begging for money to buy lifesaving medications.

Everybody will win when we have more nurses, doctors, and frontline workers willing to go out there every day to fight for the health of the nation.

For us Everybody Fi Win!   Todos Ganamos!  Thank you.

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