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Aug 10, 2001

Day one of N.H.I. shows promise

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With the long anticipated National Health Insurance pilot project now underway, it remains to be seen whether the N.H.I. concept will prove workable in the Belizean context. This morning News 5′s Ann-Marie Williams made her rounds.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

Today we visited the four southside clinics to see how registration and health care services are going. Dr. Greg Arana is the Director of Integral Health Care, a branch of Universal Health Services. He says this morning has seen a big increase in traffic.

Dr. Greg Arana, Dir., Integral Health Care

“We have been doing registration now for over the past month and with the official launching yesterday, we noticed that there’s an increase in the number of people coming in this morning.”

Grace Collymore is responsible for registration at Integral.

Grace Collymore, Registering Officer, Integral Health Care

“It’s rushing. We have a fair number of people coming in now. I think they realised the value of getting the card, so people are coming in much faster.”

Dr. Greg Arana

“They get full general consultation, they get to see one of the GPs we have three general practitioners working here. Along with that, they get their investigations as needed after they see the doctor. If they need a blood test, if they need a x-ray or ultrasound, as well as the medication. For a general level like this, primary care, which we’re serving, most patients need to get some medication. So they will have access from the five pharmacies to get their medication.”

Even though he doesn’t need medication, Estevan Gentle can still count on quality care. He signed up with his providers a couple of weeks ago.

Estevan Gentle, Southside Resident

“I’m over fifty-five and I haven’t complained of any sickness or ailments, so I’d like a general check-up for myself.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“I noticed you brought someone along, if he your son?”

Estevan Gentle

“Yes, he is my son and he has some problems with his eyes and different things like that, so I want him to get a check-up as well.”

Although no one was getting a check-up or registering when we visited B.F.L.A. on Central American Boulevard, primary care physician Dr. Amos Ojo, says one thousand, eight hundred five people have already been registered.

Amos Ojo, Physician, B.F.L.A.

“A couple of them have registered, initially in the past two three weeks, the stream has been very large. But as to members who have actually come for consultations this morning, I’ve seen a total of six.”

When we arrived, the chairs at the Belize Medical Associates’ Southside Clinic were empty, but clinic manager Linda Azueta says the office was full earlier this morning.

Linda Azueta, Manager, Belize Medical Associates Clinic

“When we opened a lot of them saw what the clinic had to offer, they heard about to services, not only about preventable care, but also we’re doing curative care. And I think a lot of them are familiar with the doctors and nurses that will be working here. They know about Belize Medical Associates, we have a good reputation from the clinic on St. Thomas Street, and I believe that will spill over into the southside clinic also.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“What are you doing here today?”

David Luckham, Southside Resident

“I’m registering myself and my family for the N.H.I. project.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Do you live on the southside of Belize District?”

David Luckham

“Yes, Racoon Street Extension.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Why did you wait until today to register?”

David Luckham

“It’s the first chance I had to do it quite honestly. You know, work most of the time, so today I thought I’d try to do it.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“How many members are in your family?”

David Luckham

“My wife and two children.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“You think it’s a good thing?”

David Luckham

“Yes I do. It’s about time they did something like this.”

David Luckham was registering his family at Matron Robert’s Health Centre, while technical director of the clinic Jose Lopez was consulting with his patient.

Dr. Lopez admits that while it’s crucial to get your N.H.I. card, if you get sick without registering he will neither turn you away nor make you pay.

Dr. Jose Lopez, Technical Dir., Matron Robert’s Centre

“Our policy is that we don’t turn back anybody. In fact we see people from northside, southside, eastside, westside, it really doesn’t make any difference to us, from Orange Walk, from all over the place, we don’t turn back anybody.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Is it because it’s a public clinic as oppose to some of the private providers?”

Dr. Jose Lopez

“I would certainly say so. I mean this is a public health institution. In fact not only do we have this clinic, but we also do the anti-natal, the prenatal, and the postnatal. I mean we cannot begin turning back people simply because they have not been registered. People not only come here from the southside, we get people from all over the country.”

And if the pilot proves successful, people all over the country may soon be registering for N.H.I. Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

The pilot project is scheduled to run for six months at which time government will decide whether or not to expand it nation-wide and if so, what charges will be made to finance the programme.

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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