If you’re considering a visit or a move to Belize, rest assured that most minor ailments can be treated quickly and cheaply at doctor’s offices and clinics that can be found in all but a few remote areas. People who suffer from serious conditions can be taken to private clinics such as Belize Medical Associates or Belize Healthcare Partners. Both of these facilities offer excellent services and costs are still very reasonable. Belize does have a number of public hospitals but most expats prefer to use private clinics.
But since all these facilities lack the quality care of hospitals in the U.S. and neighboring countries, some many expats leave Belize for more complicated types of medical treatment. Many American retirees, for instance, return home for a few days whenever they want to take advantage of Medicare. Some expats also go to Chetumal and Merida, just north of the border in the Mexican state of Yucatán, and to Guatemala City and Antigua in Guatemala.
Expats in Belize also have the option of returning to the U.S. for healthcare and, in cases of emergency, to rely on evacuation coverage provided by an international health insurance policy. Evacuation coverage is particularly important because an ambulance flight can easily cost $15,000. If you’re prone to health problems, you should consider this option. Information on medical services is available from the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan, Tel +(1)501-227-7161, though the embassy staff doesn’t recommend doctors.
The Public Healthcare System
Under the legislation of the Belizean government all residents, including foreigners, are entitled to receive free medical services from the state-run facilities. Since funding has always been a problem, patients may have to wait for a long time to get an appointment.
Belize’s public healthcare system also has a network of around 60 state clinics that can accommodate 700 occupants or so. These are the primary source of medical and dental care services in rural areas. Outside of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) in Belize City, there are seven state-run hospitals, all located in the capitals of the other districts. Of these, three are regional hospitals:
The Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga
The Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk Town (closest to Orchid Bay)
The Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan, the nation’s capital
The three regional centers listed above provide more services to the general public than the capital hospitals in Toledo and Corozal.
State-run healthcare in Belize is low-cost or free and people don’t require insurance to afford the services of a doctor. A day’s stay in a hospital should cost approximately US $20 on average. However, this amount may be a bit higher, depending on the type of treatment a patient opts for.
Surgeries and other complicated procedures cost no more than a few hundred dollars. However, patients get only basic services like shared wards and bathrooms. They need to arrange for their own towels, clothes, and toiletries.
While the doctors are quite well-qualified and experienced, they don’t always have access to the medical supplies that they may require. Outdated technology and equipment at many of the medical facilities cause further challenges in the proper treatment of patients. The local doctors can easily deal with minor ailments, even in the most remote areas. However, people suffering from serious problems often have to travel to facilities in bigger cities or even abroad.
The Private Healthcare System And Network
Only about 25% of the country’s medical staff are employed by the private healthcare sector, and yet their services are far superior. However, the better quality comes at a much higher cost and the patients are expected to either pay for each service themselves or make use of private health insurance coverage. Only about 15% of the country’s population can, therefore, afford private healthcare. This includes most of the foreign nationals, as they prefer opting for private medical care.
There are three main private hospitals that can be found in the country, with approximately 100 beds in total. These are:
- La Loma Luz Hospital: This private institution is run and managed by the Seventh Day Adventist mission
- Belize Medical Associates: A 25-bed private hospital offers neurological and radiology services
- Universal Health Services: A private healthcare facility that is located in Belize City
La Loma Luz Hospital is one of the non-profit institutions. The country is also home to 50 other for-profit and 4 non-profit clinics. Both types of facilities offer prime services at comparably reasonable costs.
Health Insurance And Costs
The costs of private healthcare services are relatively higher and most patients, therefore, get an insurance policy to cover them for a major part of their medical expenses. Customers can choose from a wide variety of private insurance providers. It is best to get coverage from a company within Belize, as international policies are not recognized by many of the local hospitals and clinics. All expats are therefore advised to sign up for private health insurance as soon as they move.
The cost of private treatment is bound to vary, depending on the type of facilities, the patient’s condition, the level of experience of the doctor, and the type of room the patient opts for. Patients could end up paying thousands of dollars even for a fairly simple procedure that requires them to stay in the hospital for a few nights. In most cases, they are likely to get private rooms along with a number of amenities.
Anyone in Belize can visit a private hospital or clinic, even if they do not have insurance. However, they will be liable to pay for each service.
Routine health care is far more affordable in Belize. Pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals can be found all across the country, and you’ll rarely have to wait long to be seen. But if you require more advanced health care, you’ll probably have to get it outside of Belize.
Healthcare In Nearby Chetumal, Mexico
According to Fox Business, Mexico is one of the top five countries with the best healthcare in the world for retirees. Most doctors and dentists in Mexico received at least part of their training in the U.S., so they’re familiar with the care expats expect and they speak English. In Mexico’s private healthcare system, costs, pretty much across the board, run 25% to 50% of U.S. costs for comparable services.
Most common name-brand prescription drugs are available in Mexico – at 25% to 50% less than what they cost north of the border and generics are available for many off-patent drugs as well. In fact, many pharmacy chains provide a free physician whose office is attached to the pharmacy. Simply walk in and pay nothing for a consultation. And most medications do not require a prescription.
Chetumal City is also home to several clinics and hospitals where you can get affordable health care, including dental and ophthalmological services. Whether you need a new pair of glasses or to refill your prescription, Chetumal City has many very affordable options. Chetumal City also has several full-service hospitals and surgical centers. In most cases, a consultation with a licensed medical doctor starts at just $10.