The Prime Minister alluded to it earlier in the week and tonight we can confirm that a U.S. based group called Belize Health Care Partners will take over Universal Health Services, if it hasn’t already. Details are scarce, but Health Minister Jose Coye today told 7NEWS that the takeover is imminent. And what about the $33.5 million loan to the Belize Bank? Coye says that the group has committed to paying that loan. Sounds slightly simplistic, considering that the asset isn’t worth that figure but, that’s what the Minister said. Of course, there’s also an indebtedness to the DFC. But Coye was more circumspect about that, saying that it will, “have to be dealt with.” But apart from what it owes the bank, Universal also has general indebtedness to suppliers, and its own doctors.
Presently, there’s no indication of how those obligations will be met, and we could not reach a representative of the new management team for comment. What we do know is that a representative of that management team has already met with the medical staff and told them that they will have to take what we are told is a 60 to 70% pay cut. As we understand it, this would only be proposed as an interim measure until the hospital gets back on its feet. Reliable reports from inside the hospital also say that staff cuts are proposed.
But if Coye is right, and there is a commitment to take over the $33.5 million loan, for government, it’s some sort of ease for government as it disposes of its onerous Belize Bank obligation, just before the September 23 deadline. And while the details of the transaction have not been publicized, the government – meaning taxpayers – will still have to pay costs associated with the entire debacle. Those include non payment penalties and arbitration losses. And of course, there’s another $12 million loan to supplement the first 33.5 that the prime minister signed unto in a separate, equally un-authorized loan note.
As we said, details are sketchy and verifiable facts are scarce, and until we see the working papers, it’ll be difficult to say for sure how much taxpayers lost on this one.