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Feb 18, 2005

Knee and hip surgery come to KHMH

For a lot of older people, the fear of falling and breaking a hip, or losing use of a knee due to arthritis or injury is a real concern, especially when they know that surgery that could restore their mobility is generally not available in Belize. But that could be changing thanks to the efforts of some doctors at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and some partners from abroad. We advise you that some of the video may be disturbing.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
A total hip or knee replacement surgery has been rare in Belize due to the lack of equipment and other resources. Most patients have to go abroad and the cost can be as much as thirty thousand Belize dollars…money that most people do not have, which leaves these patients partially disabled.

Dr. Francis Smith, Orthopaedic Surgeon
?There are people in Belize that should have had total joint replacement ten years ago. So I have lined up for this procedure nothing less than thirty patient at this moment.?

For the past ten years, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Francis Smith and the medical staff at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, through the sponsorship of doctors Tim Tang and Cornel Van Gorp, orthopaedic surgeons in the United States, have been steadily collecting the hardware needed to facilitate a fully functional specialized orthopaedic program.

Dr. Francis Smith
?That?s exactly what we are working on. So it?s not as if they haven?t done total joint replacement in Belize, we have but not on a regular basis. The idea right now is to make it a reality.?

Dr. Cornel Van Gorp, who specializes in total hip and knee replacement surgeries, is presently in the country to help establish the programme at the KHMH. Gorp has not only assessed the standards of the hospitals? operating theatre but have also identified sources who will be able to supply the KHMH with the implants it will need. However because the implants are costly the assistance will be on a short term basis. The Ministry of Health will have to see what measures will need to be taken to sustain the health care programme, but doctors Van Gorp and Smith are optimistic that the programme will come into effect.

Dr. Cornel Van Gorp, Orthopaedic Surgeon
?I think it is certainly possible to bring hip and knee replacement here to Belize City. It?s part of a mission and perhaps even long term. It certainly is a possibility.?

Jacqueline Woods
?Why would it be more beneficial to the patient to receive this service here in Belize??

Dr. Cornel Van Gorp
?I think it will be more economical for the patient, certainly. How to pay for it is a problem for Social Security and the people of Belize to figure out how to do that long term. Certainly short term we can establish missions and get some people help in that fashion .?

Dr.Francis Smith
?We have everything under control except total hip or total knee replacement surgery. So we do it off and on but it is not a regular thing in Belize. So the idea is to make it a reality. Meaning anyone who needs it will get it done.?

?What we don?t have really is the equipment.?

?It?s a procedure that requires a lot of hardware very, very expensive. So we are working on all the instruments. Oscillating saws, electric saw and drills, power drills and all the instruments to put in the implant.?

?There are so many companies out there and it?s all very expensive so it has got to be planned very carefully.?

Not until the work is finalized will Belizeans know just how much the medical care will cost them but KHMH pledges to make it as affordable as possible.

Dr. Smith says their plan is to start offering the specialized orthopaedic care by April or May.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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