The two private hospitals in Belize City are more like clinics but clinics with a variety of different kinds of specialist doctors. You pay as you go but they take credit cards, and the care there is quite good.
If you are on the islands in Belize, you can go to the polyclinics, which are for free, or you can go see a private doctor. There are lots of private doctors here on the island who are mostly trained from Cuba. There is one new American doctor, too. You pay for the visit and you pay for the prescriptions that they would give you since they do not have a pharmacy in there office. They provide decent care to people in the islands. I take in people with big cuts all the time. I took a man right to the private doctors who had come off a snorkel trip months ago who was having a heart attack. They hooked him up, assessed him, and when they realized that he was having a massive coronary, we took him to Belize City, from where they took him back to the States in time.
If you have a heart attack and you are on Ambergris Caye, let’s hope that you are close to someone who knows CPR, and if this is the first time, certainly EMS is activated and you can call 911 here. They recently had donated a bunch of ambulances. These ambulances are not in the form that you would know in North America, but more like a tuk tuk, which is a three-wheeled emergency vehicle in which they rush people to the nearest doctor who will help. If you would have a heart attack here and you have a condition, hopefully you have nitro with you, but if you don’t have a condition as it is the first time, let’s hope at the very least that you can get to somebody who knows what they’re doing. We don’t have an automated external defibrillator at our facility but the polyclinic does and some of the other hotels do. We are constantly looking at getting an AED but at this time, we haven’t. Belize is really not the kind of place that you’d want to come when you’re on the verge of being really ill. If you have serious health concerns and you are kind of on the edge, Belize is too far out for you. You should not be this far from help. You need to be a lot more self-sufficient than you think.
If you have a broken leg, we can take you to the Cuban or to the American doctor. They will be able to do the basics and they will be able to hook you up, but if there is any subsequent surgery or something big had to happen you have to get airlifted to Belize City, either to the public hospital or to the private hospital. They will not be able to perform surgery here in the island. It is just triage.
If you need to be airlifted and if you really need to get to the hospital, somebody will take you for a couple thousand dollars.
Medical care in Belize is improving all the time. The emphasis is improving the infrastructure for the medical care so we are always encouraged. The British military used to have a free service to bring people on a plane off the Island on a little plane they call the “Wings of Hope.” However, with the austerity of the budget going on in Europe, they had to downsize that, so that is why you now pay out of your pocket to get to the mainland and use an emergency flight. Up until two years ago, it used to be completely free. If the doctor called the Wings of Hope and said, “We need to evacuate this person,” the military would just move you off the island for free.