New medical tourism association formed in Belize

 

The tiny Central American state of Belize is the only one that has English as the official language, and a population smaller than many British towns, but it now has a medical tourism association.  
 
The Belize Medical Tourism Association is open to healthcare and tourism professionals and institutions committed to providing specialized quality services to international medical travellers, while enjoying a unique tourism experience in Belize

Within the next five years the BMTA seeks to be the official, self-sustainable, and inclusive association driven by Belizean stakeholders, made up of internationally accredited entities.

Within ten years it seeks to position Belize as a leading regional destination for medical tourism.

The reality is that the country has a population of 340,000 and depends heavily on the million tourists it gets, 60% of which are American.

Once known as the British Honduras, it is on the North Eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is about 290 km long and 110 km wide.

Belize has a diverse society, with many cultures and languages. Originally part of the British Empire, it became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1981, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Most available medical procedures are cheaper in Belize than in the USA, but many locals head north into Mexico for treatment, where costs are lower, facilities are better and more procedures are available.

Facilities, equipment and doctors in Belize are in extremely short supply, so the range of available treatments is limited at best. No local hospitals have international accreditation.

Belizean doctors generally come from abroad, some as volunteers to help the locals, and the vast majority work in publicly funded clinics or hospitals with very little time and resources for special care. However there are a few doctors and dentists that run their own private practices, with some even advertising to foreigners.

At present it gets a few American medical tourists a year, mostly for dental work, To expand medical tourism it will need outside investors to partner the few local private hospitals by expanding, updating and improving facilities. The limited state system will not get involved in medical tourism.

Belize has a problem with violent crime, much of it drug-related, and the trafficking of narcotics to the US. Belize is on a US blacklist of countries considered to be major producers or transit routes for illegal drugs.

The government sees the only way of making medical tourism work is to encourage overseas investors to set up in the country, preferably as partners to locals. But talks so far have failed as the investors want to have total control, and to fly in US doctors as need, which many local medical professionals oppose.

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