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Feb 4, 2021

The Cost of Critical Care for COVID-19 Patients

In our ongoing series on K.H.M.H.’s response to COVID-19, as Belize’s only national referral hospital, we have covered several areas, including the establishment of a COVID Unit. We have also focused on the use and surcharge for personal protective equipment. Tonight we look at critical care and the cost of being admitted to the ward as a patient suffering from the deadly virus. News Five’s Isani Cayetano and cameraman George Tillett were back inside that specialized wing of the hospital for an exclusive look at how intensive care is administered to the critically ill and dying. Here’s that report.



Alaine Gonzalez

Dr. Alaine Gonzalez, K.H.M.H. COVID Unit

“I think one of the worst cases that I’ve seen is a patient who doesn’t come in on time.  We have a lot of patients that sometimes wait and then they come in all the way to the end when their symptoms are very bad and even though we might try to intubate them, they might not be possible to save after that because we intubate them.  But because the symptoms are so prolonged that they still end up passing away.”


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Critical care for patients suffering from COVID-19 is essential in saving lives.  Since the COVID Unit was established at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital last year, a team of nurses, doctors and patient care assistants has been working tirelessly on the frontline.


Eric Bradley

Dr. Eric Bradley, K.H.M.H. COVID Unit

“It has been a challenging experience.  Actually today marks ten months exactly since we had our first admission on April third, 2020.  So we’ve been here ten months dealing with COVID-19.  It has been challenging and it has also been a learning experience from Patient One that we had to where we are today.”


In recounting the arrival of the first COVID-19 patient, C.E.O. Michelle Hoare describes that moment as distressing.  The countdown to zero hour was nail-biting, notwithstanding their training and preparation.


Michelle Hoare

Michelle Hoare, Chief Executive Officer, K.H.M.H.

“It was nerve-wracking, quite honestly.  As the head of the hospital, knowing that we’ve gone through all of that, to see the staff prepare for the reception of this patient, they were nervous, themselves.  Even though they were prepared, you could see that they were tense, you know, they were all geared up and ready to receive the patient.  The information flow was quite satisfactory.  As management, we had to be there onsite with the staff members, providing that level of support to them.”


What they were faced with for the first time was possible exposure to an illness that has no known cure.  Specialized care for patients whose conditions are life-threatening and who require comprehensive treatment and constant monitoring is nothing new to the hospital staff.  For persons who are hospitalized at the K.H.M.H., critical care comes at a subsidized cost, but can go as high as ten thousand dollars for a month-long stay.  Relatively speaking, it is still not as exorbitant as other private medical facilities whose bills have ballooned to as much as six figures.


Adrian Coye

Dr. Adrian Coye, Acting Director of Medical Services, K.H.M.H.

“All services we provide are subsidized and it’s subsidized to a degree that you can’t say it’s a formula or it’s one-fifth of the private or one-third of the private, et cetera because for many instances it may cost the same but the fee that they pay, you know, it’s less.  For example, if you do a minor procedure, a minor surgery, it has one fee, three hundred dollars but that’s not what it costs to deliver that care.  It probably costs two thousand dollars.  So similarly where it comes to the COVID treatment, our experience with that, if I walk you through a patient who has COVID on an ordinary day, there are twelve hour shifts that the nurse do and they would go in or be with the patient sometimes for prolonged periods.”


And that is what’s taken into consideration when a bill is being calculated.


Dr. Adrian Coye

“These costs, again, are not something that is just suddenly pulled out of the sky.  We think about all the ways the pricing is done as a reflection to just try to recover, not even costs that the institution invests [in], like medication and other things.  Notwithstanding, and I must say, the Ministry of Health and Wellness had contributed significantly to this effort in different ways and we’ve also benefited from the largess of our community.”


Since the beginning of this effort, the business community has been very instrumental in donating equipment and other resources to the K.H.M.H.’s COVID Unit. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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