Doctors back Belize medical tourism plan

Local doctors on Belize were originally opposed to plans to make the tiny island a medical tourism destination, but now support the proposals.

Concerned that their income would suffer if American doctors were flown in to undertake treatment, and piqued at not being consulted before the original plans were made public, members of the Belize Medical and Dental Association (BDMA) were vociferously opposed at first.

Now that they have been included in the planning process, they are behind the initiative. Dr. Joel Cervantes of BDMA says medical tourism will up the standard of healthcare provided in Belize: “As medical and dental experts, our wish is to be involved. Belizean doctors and dentists cannot do all the work as we lack specialist expertise. By having medical tourism come to Belize the standard of medicine practice here both for locals and for our foreign guests is going to be better.”

BMDA has been working with the Ministry of Health on a medical bill that will regulate the medical tourism sector. That bill is expected to go to Cabinet soon.

The consultations on medical tourism have been going on for several months. Massimo Manzie, a consultant hired to draft a strategy has delivered a draft of a medical tourism policy, “Belize has a lot to offer to medical tourist. This is a renowned retirement destination for Americans and an English speaking country; so has advantages that customers will not face the same communication problems as in many Latin America countries.”

Dr. Peter Allen, Ministry of Health, adds, “We see ourselves playing the role of catalyst and making sure that we can try to create the proper environment through which this industry can prosper – driven by the private sector. We have an important role in creating the appropriate regularity framework to make sure that it is done in a safe way.”

Dr. Joel Cervantes, BMDA comments, “We want a proper model to be put into place. Much needed funds will come from foreign investors, and there might be local investors involved.”

Mike Singh of the Ministry of Trade concludes, “The vision of the government is to develop an industry that will create employment and also improve healthcare for Belizeans. Many Belizeans actually travel to Merida, Guatemala and Miami for medical attention, as our local services do not satisfy our market. We can bring that business back to Belize and also bring additional international medical patients to Belize.”