Today, the Ministry of Health launched the 2014 National Health Sector Strategic Plan and the accompanying Non-communicable Diseases Plan.
The country had been operating without these plans since 2011, and today, the Ministry's Director of Policy and Analysis Planning Unit told us that it's a drastic improvement in the way they provide health services:
Ramon Figueroa, Director of Planning & Policy Analysis Unit
"To begin with the plan is innovative in the sense that it is incorporating the World Health Organization's framework for health systems development, so we are looking at the strengthening and development and re-engineering of a health system as oppose only to looking at vertical programs, that's one thing. The other thing is that we are looking at it in terms of the whole health sector as opposed to only the Ministry of Health and there is reason for that. Many of the problems that we have in health are the product of what we called social determinacy which include for example, poor education, lack of employment, poverty, basic sanitation and those things really the Ministry of Health has no real input or influence on those social determinacy factor, so for example, we are looking at chronic non-communicable diseases which is one of our priority areas in terms of service delivery. We are looking at from the aspect of promotion, detector, early screening, working with other partners, for example, the national cancer society - looking at education in schools. Looking at immunization as another part. So the interventions are broad-based across the board. We are also looking also for example at the treatment aspect of it, so it's a long the whole spectrum of care."
And at that launching, one of the persons at the head table was Pablo Marin, the Minister of Health. The media pulled himself for a one-on-one interview, and he was asked about his decision last year to suspend the certification exam for persons hoping to be licensed as nurses. He explained that half the persons taking the exam were failing, which supposedly points to a break down in the nursing classes at the University of Belize:
Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health
"It is not that we want to stop the exam. From day one I have been asking the entire Board, and it is in the record that the exam that they take - it's only like 50% of them that pass the exam. What I did ask from them is that they please revise the curriculum and for them to make it better, because if you have 50% of them failing, can you please check on that and then three years after, they didn't do anything about it, so what I did I said you know what, stall this thing I want to know exactly what is happening. They did the exam again, and up to now they haven't come and revised the curriculum from UB. And it is on the record, the amount of people failing the exam."
And as 7News showed you last week, an audit report from the Auditor General says that Administrator Nasley Somerville misappropriated over 366 thousand dollars from the Southern Regional Hospital's Maternal and Child Health account. The report points to missteps within the Administration of the Ministry of Health as the main reason this theft of public funds could have gone unchecked. The Minister and his CEO has come under fire for not auditing for 2 years. Today, when he was asked directly about that, he said that his critics can't have it both ways. If they keep a tight grip, they're accused of micromanaging, and if they give autonomy, they're accused of being lax. Here's how Marin put it:
Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health
"Whenever we try to do something or go into the different sections then you shout at us that we are micro-managing. Just like what happened in the south. You have managers there, you have accountants there - yet maybe we didn't go, and two years passed and then we went and look at what was happening. But what do you want us to do…go around to all the hospitals and look at them…it is micromanaging then you start to call at us. When you look at $300,000 missing in our ministry where you can we need more ambulance, we need more medications, we need to hire more doctors - definitely it is our concern so we have to look at it. But sometimes with the public system it is hard for us to deal with it because it is hold right there."
The report from the Auditor General, according to CEO Peter Allen, is before the Public Service Commission, who has yet to grant Sommerville a tribunal hearing on the charges from the Auditor General.
And in another news from the Ministry Of Health, they are looking for a 2005 Toyota Hilux that was stolen from the parking lot of the Central Health Region on Thursday night. Now if this sounds familiar it should, in 2012, a Gold 2009 Hilux was stolen. Now, it's a silver 2005, form the same parking lot, and again, it had security. The pickup in this case has a camper and its doors are labeled HECOPAB.