November 13, 2023 — In the region of the Americas, millions of people still lack access to basic health services. Thus, the countries in this region have been trying to find different ways and strategies to tackle this universal health challenge. However, Belize has taken a strong approach by removing all fees charged in public hospitals in the country ensuring universal access.
Universal access is achieved when barriers that prevent persons from receiving health services are eliminated. In many countries, the ability to pay for healthcare has been a continuous and primary barrier, especially for low-income families. However, Belize has eliminated this financial barrier for all its citizens and communities.
Previously, when visiting public hospitals, patients were required to pay fees for health services received. Although this was a requirement, according to the Government of Belize, over the past three years, statistics revealed that revenue arrears for hospital bills reached approximately 50 percent. Additionally, administrative costs associated with fee collection strained the country’s healthcare system.
“Instead of continuing having these burdens and fees on the Belizean people, who are already struggling, we decided as a Ministry to take this to the Cabinet for approval, who were in full support of removing the fees from public hospitals,” said Hon. Kevin Bernard, Minister of the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Belize. “We want to ensure there is health equity and pushing the need for universal access and universal health coverage across our country. This makes it even more affordable and accessible to our Belizean people.”
Hon. Bernard also emphasized that this would allow the ministry to look at the country’s public health facilities to improve as they can now focus on delivering quality care to their patients instead of worrying about monetary revenue.
Although the fee removal does not include the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, which is being evaluated separately, Belize hopes that removing the fees from all the other public hospitals will improve country-wide healthcare access and promote health equity emphasizing the country's dedication to its people while also setting an example for other countries in taking a step towards achieving universal health access.