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#424482 - 12/07/11 03:11 PM Medical Tourism in Belize a reality
Marty Offline

Belize has gained a reputation for environmental tourism. That landscape has been changing and on a smaller scale, the country is also gaining reputation for medical tourism. Medical tourism is sought out particularly by Americans who want to complete medical procedures at an affordable price. For some time there has been speculation among the medical profession that this type of tourism would be formally introduced. Well, it seems that it’s now about to become a reality. The policies are currently being drafted and will open up the market to new medical facilities that may offer health care exclusively to foreigners. It was one of many topics discussed earlier today at a forum spearheaded by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Mike Singh, Exec. Chairman of BELTRAIDE/ Board Member of CEDA

“There was some discussion today as a matter of fact, I made a comment; we had Doctor Elsworth Grant, who runs the oncology center in Dangriga was here throughout the session and he was very interested in seeing how he can expand what he is doing, which is really a charity service to looking at it as a means to bring in patients to take advantage of what he’s doing. In Belize, I know we are now working on a medical tourism policy because I’m participating in it. There is more and more inquiries coming in from medical professionals from abroad that are interested in setting up facilities; I know in Belize and in the rest of the Caribbean as well. It is an area that goes well with tourism; it is an area that with rising health cost in the U.S. makes it very attractive for a short flight to save a lot of money. In Belize in particular we get quite a few visitors that come in just for dental work off the cruise ships and also that fly in. it’s an area that has quite a huge scope for development we think.”

Jose Sanchez

“But that also means including the local facilities,; it won’t something exclusive for just those who intend to set up shop here right?”

Mike Singh

“Well actually the policy we are working on which Beltraide is very instrumental in helping with is to offer an incentive package that has two tiers: one is an incentive for existing operators that would be rewarded for bringing in non-resident patients and we are still toying with the idea of waiving things like business tax for revenue earned from non-resident patients and also allowing them import fiscal incentives for import of equipment to service those patients. And we are looking for a much bigger incentive package for those that want to establish exclusive hospitals only for non-residents. So there are two tiers. And we are in the process of building that now and it should be launched in the next two to three weeks; it should be ready for discussion and publication.”

Jose Sanchez

“You do expect it to receive opposition from local hospitals who do depend on some medical tourism as part of their income?”

Mike Singh

“Well we are hoping that it would encourage them to do more because the business they do now, they don’t get the tax breaks that we will offer. So I do believe that there should be a synergy and I was very clear that we couldn’t offer an incentive to purely foreign operators without offering equal or better incentives to our locals. And we’ve had some discussions with the medical association and I think they are on board with us with the program that we intend to roll out because it does give a reward for even an individual doctor who wants to target foreign patients so that he can get a tax break for the business he brings in.”

Channel 5


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#424715 - 12/09/11 02:44 PM Re: Medical Tourism in Belize a reality [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BMDA not consulted on medical tourism

The formal introduction of Medical Tourism in Belize is in the pipeline; it was discussed on Tuesday at a forum spearheaded by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank along with Beltraide, Executive Chairman, Michael Singh. The impression left was that the local doctors were all on board with the policy being drafted to introduce medical tourism. But the president of the Belize Medical and Dental Association, Dr. Joel Cervantes, says not so quick. According to Cervantes, the BMDA has not been consulted on the issue. Cervantes also told News Five that several attempts to give their input have been fruitless.

Dr. Joel Cervantes, President, BMDA

“We’re not against medical tourism; we just think that the membership of the BMDA and the executive as such, we are very important players towards the creation of any policy that has to be written by any committee that has been appointed either by the prime minister or the Cabinet. There is a committee that includes of course, the Chairman of BELTRAIDE, the C.E.O. Ministry of Health, from labor, tourism, economic development among others. And even though we have tried perhaps directly and indirectly to have a little bit of voice and say on it we have not been taken into account.”

Delahnie Bain

“So what would you have preferred to have been done?”

Dr. Andre Joel Cervantes

“You know, I understand that you have experts within organizations like BELTRAIDE and you have the technocrats and technical people who work for these different ministries. What society must know is that the membership of the BMDA represents doctors and dentists countrywide that work both in the public and the private sector and you can’t make a policy if you don’t have the expertise from those of us on the ground. We are the people on the ground so definitely whatever policy will have a lot of flaws because I understand the ambition like Mr. Singh put it forward but the approach is not the correct one. I mean if we are the specialized people on the ground, then hear our voice so that this can be guided in an appropriate fashion.”

Delahnie Bain

“Have you seen the actual proposal for the implementation of this medical tourism? Are there things that you would have wanted to change as a medical professional?”

Dr. Andre Joel Cervantes

“Well, we know some things because we have been doing some research, investigating, asking some questions. The first thing, we reached out to the Ministry of Health but unfortunately you know that’s a closed door. We really can’t get to speak to the Minister officially on this matter, we can’t get any feedback from the C.E.O., we can’t get any type of meetings and primarily that should be the first place we should start. So now what we have decided to embark on is to try to touch the doors with the other players on this committee to see if our voice can be heard because we think that our role is a very important one in respect to medical tourism.”


BMDA says problems exist in medical field

Cervantes says that before jumping into medical tourism, there are pressing problems in the field that require urgent attention. The BMDA believes that the exclusion of local doctors in the drafting of the policy, could lead to complications for medical tourism giving Belize a black eye.

Dr. Andre Joel Cervantes

“We understand that they are trying to develop the nation, but we have to be very careful because in a country like ours, apart from legislation lacking which I understand is the reason why a policy is being made, we have a fundamental problem when it comes to the medical practice in Belize and that is proper policing of the way medicine is practiced in Belize. So if we already have a problem on the ground where locally, there are very serious issues that for us we need to address on a local level, by the time you start to bring in foreign expertise, the situation can turn very, very ugly. So we are insistent that we have to be heard, we have to be one of the stakeholders, a very important stakeholder in this type of project.”

Delahnie Bain

“Are there any other concerns related to this medical tourism, apart from the fact that you weren’t consulted on the way that it is being implemented?”

Dr. Andre Joel Cervantes

“We think our consultation will have to be taken into account. We think that the Belizean public at large—like Mr. Singh has said, this will be put together and it’s going to be published for discussion. Do you want to publish something without having some expertise on the ground first? Do you want to be redundant and realize there are a lot of flaws in the system? We think that before you go and publish anything let us sit down because we want Belize to move forward; this is something that we view as a national industry and it shouldn’t just be a benefit for a couple of people. We don’t want Belize to have a black eye because you have foreign medical experts coming to practice medicine and then we start having issues with respect to the practice of medicine so you know, as Belizeans, yes we want to make sure that medical tourism is done in an appropriate fashion.”

According to Cervantes, there are already several foreign investors in the process of setting up shop, including one in Corozal, three in San Pedro and another in Placencia. He feels that the foreign investors are being given a head start while the local doctors are kept in the dark about the developments.

Channel 5


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#424819 - 12/10/11 02:03 PM Re: Medical Tourism in Belize a reality [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Health and Wellness Tourism Package

We’ve heard about the plan to introduce medical tourism and tonight two major resorts are looking to develop the less controversial health and wellness tourism. Stakeholders in tourism feel that the Jewel has more than sea, sand and sun to offer and that a healthy lifestyle could attract many more visitors to Belize. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Tourism in Belize, despite growth and contraction in key sectors of the industry this year, remains one of the country’s chief revenue generators. Challenges aside, there are new products being launched locally that are expected to derive additional income. Along with the proposed introduction of medical tourism is a focus on health and wellness, a niche market that is currently being pioneered by Maruba Resort and The Lodge at Chaa Creek. A small group of stakeholders sat down today to discuss expansion within the industry.

Dr. Auliana Poon, Managing Director, Tourism Intelligence International

“The travel and tourism industry is changing and it’s changing rapidly and radically. What’s changing it [is] the technology on the supply side and the customers. The customers are demanding something different. We have to understand that the population is getting older but they’re getting fitter and they want more recuperation, rejuvenation, spa [and] wellness and it’s a trend but it’s not just a fad. We see it as a deep down trend in travel and tourism and for the Caribbean we see that we cannot continue to compete simply on sun, sand and sea alone, and some sports, diving and so on. We need to compete with information and with intelligence and with innovation and one of the trends we’re seeing is that demand for more wellness and we see the Caribbean as having all of the ingredients to drive this trend.”

Statistics for the current season were recently made public and, notwithstanding the dip in cruise arrivals, it is widely believed that wellness tourism can be a viable area that needs to be explored.

Dr. Auliana Poon

“The industry as a whole globally has been taking a serious battering from the global recession and so that we’ve been having. It’s recovering, it’s recovering slowly but recovery is sure. What we tell people is that we should not just look at the numbers because for example the British market is getting a beating, I mean there is double dip recession, it’s challenges and so but the key fact is when that market recovers it’s not the same. People are wanting to do different things, they’re overstressed, they are in all kinds of situations and we want to be ready and I think we have to see that challenge in the market as an opportunity.”

According to Dr. Auliana Poon, a tourism expert based in Trinidad, spa and wellness is the future of tourism for Belize having exhausted what the country has had to offer over the years with respect to ecotourism.

Dr. Auliana Poon

“We have to understand that it is exactly what Belize has, O2 (oxygen), natural environment, natural life, nature. This is what people want to engage in and engage with and at the end of the day those are the factors that will continue to be in demand but the key thing is how do we add value to nature? When we think about adventure it’s really about human beings engaging with nature. How can we maintain that nature but at the same time provide the employment, the jobs, the opportunities for our local and rural communities to really benefit from tourism? And we see spa and wellness as one of those great opportunities for the future. Already places like Maruba Resort is absolutely incredible in terms of how it’s leading world best practices in spa and wellness and body painting and all of those things. Chaa Creek is another one and you have others.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Channel 5


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#425273 - 12/15/11 04:45 AM Re: Medical Tourism in Belize a reality [Re: Marty]
Cooper Offline
L.O.L Yes Belize is great for eye exams, and more, colonoscopies, basic needs, but the underlying truth is the lab workers and the under level help is questionable. The Doctors are good, some are way more than good.Excellent actually. About three years ago I was sick for many months, lost 35 lbs down to 120 lbs. spent about $10 K. lost the use of my left foot,and eyesight.was full of black spots so I could not see....never was diagnoised but the lab made huge mistakes on my test three times which added to the situation. Thus by not writing down the proper evaluation numbers. The test were correct, the person thet transfered the test results wrote down the wrong numbers, this happening once may be OK, but 3 times by 2 different labs!!! I was so overly medicated, hospital stays, treated for being chronic in ailments I did not have. Still without insurance, Belize is great, as I said the Doctors are actually caring and do very well. We all need to be more in control of our own lives and from now on I will wait for my results and not depend on them being handed down to the person that is only getting $2.00 an hour. They are also doing the best they can.
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