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May 21, 2020

B.C.V.I. Affected by COVID-19

The health sector has been in high gear due to the corona virus but like other sectors, it is also facing challenges. Even before the lockdown of the economy, the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, better known as B.C.V.I., closed its branches across the country, laid off its staff of forty and closed its main office on Princess Margaret Drive. Residents lost access to the only eye care service provider in the public sector. According to Executive Director, Carla Ayres-Musa, majority of its revenue is from its clients and its phased re-opening has been met with some challenges.


Carla Ayres-Musa

Carla Ayres-Musa, Executive Director, BCVI

“We actually had been following the international trends early in March and as you know, we get a lot of international visiting doctors and one of those doctors was here with us. And we had heard Doctor Sanjay Gupta and these doctors that we know telling us we need to make a decision sooner rather than later. And so we closed all our clinics countrywide and our main office before Belize had its first case, before we went under lockdown, before our state of emergency; I think it was around March seventeenth. So since then, there have been zero eye care services in the public sector. That was a very difficult decision for us because we understand the need for people to access affordable eye care. And so it’s been a difficult process in trying to navigate through the COVID-19 time now and the different protocols and processes. So we have been in touch with international ophthalmologist, who know our situation, who have visited us before; we’ve developed protocols for the clinics and we are doing a phased reopening. We had hoped to reopen Belize City this month, but with the restrictions that the K.H.M.H. has and our proximity to them, we have to make some adjustments in terms of clinic access before we can open that. But we have opened our Dangriga clinic and our PG clinic. And I think the most important thing that we have to tell our patients is that please be patient with us. We are not able to take walk-ins the way we did before. I think this is going to be a global change; this is not just BCVI, this is the new norm. You have to wear your face masks if you come to the clinic, even if you are just picking up your glasses or your drops. Because nobody knew what was gonna happen once we closed, we waited for a couple weeks toward the end of March to see what was going to happen nationally. And when we got to that point, and at that point we had the state of emergency, quarantine, lockdown, we decided that there wasn’t any way that we could financially continue to support our staff of forty people without having our doors open. So ninety percent of our income comes from our fees for services; that’s people purchasing glasses, people paying for their eye exams, people purchasing medication. And without that, we just couldn’t continue to pay everyone. So we did have to let everyone go and we had to pay severance and notice pay and holiday pay and everything. And so we are looking at contracting those [persons] back as we start to reopen based on the need and the demand and our financial viability.”

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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