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Jan 16, 2008

U.H.S. sale a done deal but no one’s talking details

Story PictureU.H.S is a done deal. That’s what an official press release from the new owners reported today but details remain sketchy as the Government, the hospital and the buyers all refused to comment on the sale. Here’s what we do know: after months of negotiating, the Belize Healthcare Partners, its financial backers and Belmopan have finally come to terms on the take over of Universal Health Services.

In a press release hand delivered to our studios this afternoon the new owners’ state:

“After protracted negotiations, Belize Healthcare Partners Limited, a U.S. consortium, has entered into an agreement with Universal Health Services and their banker to acquire one hundred percent of the assets of U.H.S.”

The statement went on to say that because they did not want to make the purchase political, they met with Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow, stressing “the need for the availability of top quality healthcare… and to bring Belize into services which are not presently available.”

B.H.P. says in the next few months it intends to revamp the services of U.H.S. and introduce new forms of treatment options for cancer and dialysis patients.

Included in the release were contact persons Belmopan physician, Dr. Venny and Collet Montejo but neither man was available for interviews today. The silence out of Belmopan was just as deafening but Press Office Director, Nuri Muhammad told us by telephone that:

“It is government’s understanding that the principals involved: the bank, new investors, and original owners are pleased with the agreement and therefore G.O.B. is also pleased with this new development.”

The buy out is a climax to more than a year of controversy which began in December 2006 when government announced that it would acquire the healthcare institution and amalgamate it with the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. That plan was met with strong opposition from all sectors and was eventually quashed. But then the Opposition exposed that two years earlier, in December 2004, the government had signed on as a guarantor for a thirty-three million dollar loan made by the hospital’s principals. That revelation set off another wave of protest over U.H.S. The Musa administration attempted to settle the liability with the Belize Bank with a land swap of approximately eight thousand acres of land on Ambergris Caye. That effort also failed in the face of public outcry and since then government had been in negotiations with private investors to take over the institution and its debts.

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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