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The Belize Social Security Board has donated $50,000 to the Ministry of health to speed up its plan to introduce a dialysis treatment center at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.

The Ministry of Health has been subsidizing haemodialysis for patients at the Belize Health Care Partners to the tune of $1.8 million a year.

But at the rates that Belize Health Care Partners charge, the money is only enough to take care of 25 patients.

There are hundreds of people in Belize who urgently need dialysis, but they cannot afford the high prices Belize Health Care Partners charge and they can't get in on the government programme.

The Belize Social Security Board has been trying for years to get the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital to open a dialysis center, and the World Organization of Renal Therapy, which specializes in offering dialysis at rock-bottom prices, has offered to donate the machines and do all the training.

But these efforts are being sabotaged by someone in the Ministry of Health who wants the subsidies to Belize Health Partners to continue.

Meanwhile people are dying because they cannot get the dialysis treatment they need to stay alive.

The foot-dragging at the Ministry of Health has become a major scandal, giving the Barrow government a black eye.

Cabinet has now given a directive for the Ministry of Health to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Organization of Renal Therapies (WORTH), paving the way for quick action after interminable delays.

The Reporter

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A Dream Well Worth Pursing

Before 2003, you never heard much in the news about dialysis or renal failure. But in 2003 what was then called Universal Health Services introduced the first dialysis center in Belize, and since then the cases have just been coming out of the woodwork. So much so that the ongoing care and treatment of the very many cases often become a crisis because the treatment is so expensive and government can only afford to pay for 25 patients at a time. But now that should change as two publicly managed dialysis centers are being built with assistance from the World Organization of Renal Therapies - WORTH. The agreement for that was signed today at the Lion's Den in Belize City.

The first center will be at La Loma Luz hospital in Cayo and the hospital's administrator Grant Macpherson today said his inspiration has been tireless champion of those with renal failure, Jose Cruz:...

Grant McPherson, La Loma Luz Hospital
"Mr. Jose Cruz, renal failure advocate and my hero 2010."

Jose Cruz, Kidney Association
"This is a matter of life and death for me you know today I should have been in a Belmopan hospital admitted but I say I'll take my chances, it doesn't really matter, I needed to be here"

Jules Vasquez, Reporting
This morning with the entire medical establishment watching Jose Cruz took center stage. He's the one who started the push for this project over a year ago and today it finally came to fruition.

Jose Cruz
"Even I, I think you're seeing my face but you don't feel the feeling I am having inside today - this for me has been a dream that I think would have never been accomplishable, never been but I never give up because this is step one."

Step one on a journey that proved difficult to even get started.

Dr. Francis Longsworth, CEO - KHMH
"The WORTH team I know also had their frustration in dealing with the cross cultural differences and the Belizean approach to problem solving which is very much like the Jamaican approach which says 'no problem man.' Nevertheless we got down to business."

That business was dozens of weekly Wednesday's meetings by a dialysis task force team culminating in the creation of a memorandum of understanding:

Dr. Francis Longsworth
"The MOU itself required a marathon effort with many hours spent at the Attorney General's office and when it seemed stalled by irreconcilable differences, an emergency visit by the Worth team earlier this year was made. That visit marks a turning point as a greater understanding among the parties resulted and the MOU was finalized."

And it was signed off on today:

Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health
"And yesterday I heard a good comment, 'This is not an instant coffee,' but it's a lot of work being done and sometimes the back and forth sometimes takes a little bit long but with this is a relief and then it's a milestone that we have done."

And in this case the ceremony and the paperwork is lagging behind the actual work which is already underway at La Loma Luz hospital in Cayo:

Grant McPherson, La Loma Luz Hospital
"Two weeks ago we started the remodeling process and what will become the new dialysis center at La Loma Luz. It is separate from the actual hospital but it's on the property. We are doing that. Literally, we blew the roof off of a building and we are starting construction on a new center for this program. We are on a very tight schedule. We have to done and ready to turn this over to the Ministry of Health on the 15th of July 2010."

That will come on stream before the KHMH unit which is at the very initial stage of identifying the space and as many as 12 technical and nursing personnel who will be dedicated to the unit. Eight units are initially being provided by WORTH and are presently being shipped to Belize:

Dr. Wayne Trebbin, WORTH
"World Organization of Renal Therapies is dedicated to putting dialysis units in areas that need dialysis units. Where people perhaps cant afford the services. Our goal is to place these dialysis units in such locations and to allow the dialysis to be accessible to everybody regardless of position, regardless of financial wellbeing, or lack of wellbeing. Our goal is to build units, create sustainability and then remain available to hand over to local authority. That's what we are going to do in Belize too. Our commitment is to help establish the dialysis unit to help establish the quality of it, and bow out but not to disappear."

That put a rare smile on the face of Jose Cruz the dialysis patient who has fought tirelessly for this programme.

Jose Cruz
"Today I am here tomorrow I might die but what we have seen accomplished today I would like to see go on."

And while there is the promise of affordable available care for those with renal failure, there's no happy ending for the Belize Healthcare Partners which loses its dialysis subvention:

Jules Vasquez
"The government spends 1.3 - 1.7 million annually at Belize Healtcare Partners. The plan is that, that money, those funds will now be re-positioned, re-allocated to the KHMH and La Loma Luz."

Hon. Pablo Marin
"Yes, that's right. The same amount of finance will be put in both facilities."

Jules Vasquez
"The creation of this programme more or less puts Belize Healthcare Partners out of play."

Dr. Francis Longsworth
"I don't see that at all, it's really up to them what they decide to do. There is still going to be a market for private services and they can develop that market in any way that they see fit."

As noted in the story, WORTH is providing 8 units initially along with the know how to assemble and maintain it. After that it will be passed over to professional staff which will be shared between Loma Luz and the KHMH.

Channel 7

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A memorandum of understanding was signed this morning that will bring affordable haemodialysis serves to people who are suffering from kidney failure.

Patrick Jones reporting

"Today's signing of the memorandum of understanding for the provision of haemodialysis services to the public, comes after months of sometimes acrimonious discussions.

Dr. Gary Longsworth, CEO - KHMH

"To say that all the parties were in total accord from the outset would be straining the truth as we were strangers then and a little ill at ease with each other. We were also in unchartered waters in trying to put substance to the concept of publicly available, affordable dialysis services in a country which up to now has only seen privately offered services.

Patrick Jones reporter

But it all came together neatly and so when representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, the La Loma Luz Adventist Hospital and the World Organization of Renal Therapies signed on the dotted line this morning, it marked an important milestone in the delivery of health care service in Belize.

Dr. Gary Longsworth, CEO - KHMH

"I see the addition of this service at the KHMH as vital given our position as the only public tertiary care hospital in Belize and the only one with intensive care services. Happily the Government of Belize shares this sentiment at the highest level and we have been assured of the necessary funding to meet this dream a reality in the near future and at a cost that the average Belizean can bear."

Patrick Jones reporter

That reality was not lost on Minister of Health Pablo Marin who says that his government is committed to ensuring that those most in need of this vital service can have easy, affordable access to its life saving benefits.

 Pablo Marin - Minister of Health

"It is a big milestone for the Ministry. It is something that we wanted to move forward. We need to help more patients and the only way to do this is by combining forces with an organization that can bring down the cost of the dialysis service to the country."

Patrick Jones reporter

How will it all come together?

Pablo Marin - Minister of Health

"According to the memorandum everybody has their share of the load. WORTH is giving us all the equipment, the solutions and we will provide them with the facilities, Loma Luz is doing the same thing. To use the same amount and to have the price reduced to help the patients."

Patrick Jones reporter

Marin says the Government of Belize remains committed to 1.8 million dollars worth of input to make the initiative work. At present 21 people who are suffering from kidney failure are on a government program whereby the cost of their renal therapy is covered by Belmopan. Minister Marin says those patients will continue on the government program and eventually the number will increase as the program is rolled out and the cost goes down. President of the World Organization of Renal Therapies, Dr. Wayne Trebbin says that under the contract his group will work with local counterparts to deliver the best dialysis care to people in Belize with end stage kidney disease. This he said is hopefully the beginning of a long fruitful partnership.

Dr. Wayne Trebbin - President, WORTH

"We have been able to do this in the past and we will continue to do it largely through the generosity of companies and benefactors who have donated equipment and monies to us. While we are working here one of the things we will try to do is to help create funding sources so that sponsorship can continue. From our past track we have been able to do this and I have no doubt that we can do that here too. The haemodialysis centers are expected to be up and running by September."


Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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WORTH bringing cheaper dialysis treatment to Belize

Only twenty-one persons are currently receiving dialysis treatment subsidized by the government. It's a small group in the number of patients that are suffering from renal pathologies. But this may soon change as earlier today a memorandum of understanding was signed by the government, the World organization of Renal Therapies and two hospitals to introduce hemodialysis in the public health system. Worth recently completed a three year project in Cameroon Africa, that is now successfully being run by that country's government. News Five's Delahnie Bain was on hand for the signing that made Belize the second country to receive the assistance.

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

Every week for the past six months or so, a group of medical representatives, dubbed the Dialysis Task Force, has been working on a project with the help of the World organization of Renal Therapies. Their aim is to bring hemodialysis into the public health system and today, the planning process culminated with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between WORTH, the Ministry of Health, La Loma Luz Adventist Hospital and the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.

Pablo Marin, Minister of Health

"Through this collaborative venture, through this milestone achievement which we celebrate today, we hope to create a partnership with WORTH, with LA Loma Luz, with our own K.H.M.H., which will extend treatment for kidney disease to all those Belizeans in need."

Dr. Wayne Trebbin, Founder/President, WORTH

"It's a momentous occasion for us. It means that we have a total commitment now to bring dialysis to Belize in conjunction with our colleagues, brothers and sisters here and our commitment is to bring state of the art, cutting edge technology of the highest quality at a price that would not cost anyone a hardship."

Dr. Gary Longsworth, CEO, K.H.M.H.

"This is a tremendous moment because this means now that we can get start on the real work of developing the dialysis service for the people of Belize."

Hemodialysis will be offered at the K.H.M.H. in Belize City and La Loma Luz in Santa Elena. And while both facilities believe it's a much needed service, Grant McPherson, the Administrator for La Loma Luz, told us the secret behind his dedication to the project.

Grant McPherson, Administrator, La Loma Luz Adventist Hospital

"Five years ago I was in total renal failure myself and for some reason my kidney started up. I don't have complete function. So I’m a lot closer to Jose than I let on today. This is personal and this means a lot to me. That's the reason why I put the amount of effort that I did into the many, many months of hours of work in preparing the MOU."

It's a huge step forward for the public health system, but for Jose Cruz, an advocate for kidney patients, it's a dream he didn't expect to come true.

Jose Cruz, Dialysis Patient

"This is a matter of life and death for me. You know today I should have been in a Belmopan hospital admitted, but I said I'll take my chances. It doesn't really matter, I needed to be here. An advocate will always find himself in some corners sometimes because of what they are asking for and what I’m asking for is the best quality care for all Belizeans. Today I’m here, tomorrow I might die but what we have accomplished here today, I would like to see go on."

Grant McPherson

"Belize is a small country, as we all know we do not have enough financial resources within the country to do all of the things that we as a people expect government to do for us. We have to reach out to partners such as WORTH."

WORTH will provide the equipment and the hospitals are responsible for the facilities´┐Ż so where does the government come in?

Dr. Gary Longsworth

"It will be a subsidized service and the government of Belize will provide a significant subsidy for the service for the people of Belize so there’s that commitment from the government which is very laudable as well that they have taken the bull by the horn so to speak to say that this is necessary, it has to be done and it will be done."

The dialysis program is set to start around mid September, but the K.H.M.H. and La Loma Luz are wasting no time and started the interview process today for the eight nurses and two technicians that will be hired to provide the treatment. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

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