By Benjamin Flowers
The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) announced this week that patients wishing to access elective clinic services will have to pay more as of February 15.
Norman Augustine Jr., director of finance of the KHMH, explained on Wednesday that the new fee will increase elective consultations from $15-$25, an increase of 67 percent. He underscored that emergency services will not be affected, so those will remain at $10.
“Compare that to what you would pay at the private sector. It’s important for you to understand that currently that fee that they pay – 15 to 10 dollars only represents 16 percent of what it costs us to run that entire specialist clinic. So we are asking the general public to bare with us and work with the government in their contribution because the government is still matching a significant amount,”Augustine said.
The new fees will have the public paying 32 percent of the actual cost of the clinical services, while the Government of Belize subsidizes the remaining 68 percent. The increase, he explained, has been due for a number of years now because the hospital, while it has 600 employees, is still considerably understaffed, and operating on limited resources.
While the new fees are expected to generate around $180,000, the KHMH’s annual billing is approximately $6.5 million, of which the hospital only collects around $3.6 million. The financial situation was compounded last year when Prime Minister Dean Barrow forgave outstanding debts owed to the KHMH, amounting to around $9 million.
The fee raise is a part of the hospitals efforts to increase quality and access to service. Apart from raising the clinical fees, the KHMH is also working on other initiatives such as an in-house collection agency to work with patients on paying their bills and increasing the fees at the physiotherapy department.
Those fees, effective March 1, will move initial sessions from $15-$30 and follow up sessions from $10-$20.