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$90 million loan approved for new Belmopan hospital

Photo: Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader
of the Opposition

The loan motion approving the borrowing of 168,750,000 Saudi Riyals from the Saudi Fund for Development was taken through all its stages during Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives. The new tertiary care hospital is to be built on the University of Belize campus and will house the first university medical facility. 

by Marco Lopez

BELMOPAN, Fri. May 19, 2023

The Government of Belize has received a loan to the tune of BZD 90 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The funds will be used to construct a new tertiary care hospital in the capital city of Belmopan. This institution will not only be a new national referral hospital, but will also serve as a medical education facility for the University of Belize. On Friday, during the sitting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño explained that the loan is being borrowed at a 2% per annum fixed interest rate. The term of the loan is 20 years – a 5-year grace period starting at the effective date of the loan, and a 15-year repayment period.

This new hospital, according to PM Briceño, will have a multifaceted impact on the country’s medical landscape. Increasing healthcare access to residents of the western and southern districts who currently have to travel to Belize City’s Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) for tertiary care is one benefit, he shared. Additionally, the partnership with the University of Belize to use the facility for medical education will increase the quantity of trained medical professionals and the quality of care, he further noted. And building a national referral hospital away from the vulnerable coastline is another justification highlighted by the PM for the construction of this new hospital.

But the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, believes that the priorities of the Briceño administration are misplaced – citing what he refers to as a healthcare “crisis” in Belize. He stated during his remarks in the House on Friday that this ruling party is “clueless” about the plight of the ordinary people, and argued that an upgrade of current public health facilities would better serve the Belizean public.

Hon. Barrow asserted that the funding from this loan is insufficient to fully finance the construction and operation of the new hospital in Belmopan, and pointed to the constant pleas among members of the medical community for better access to equipment and medication to ensure a higher quality of service to citizens. Staffing challenges within the medical community in Belize was another issue highlighted by the opposition. Across the country, medical teams are stretched thin, as was demonstrated by the walk-out of Southern Regional Hospital nurses earlier this year.

The KHMH, which has been Belize’s national hospital for the past 30 years, currently operates at a loss, according to Barrow. He described this proposal for the new hospital in Belmopan as a “slap in the face” of that institution, which has served the Belizean public unwaveringly for the last three decades.

The new 150-bed facility will serve as the regional hospital for the western part of the country, PM Briceno said, and will be a second tertiary care institution – reducing the workload of the KHMH.

In response to Barrow’s comments, the PM explained that the current Belmopan hospital is in a state of irreparable decay. That hospital was built almost 50 years ago. He explained that while these funds are being allocated for the construction of this new hospital, the needs of the KHMH have not been forgotten. He went on to suggest that given the growing population of the country, and the greater need for healthcare services, the long-term vision is for another hospital in Belize – possibly in the Lake Independence area.