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Census Report and Its Importance to Belize’s Health

The long awaited census report is now out and the question is “Now what?”  For a long time folks in San Pedro have been estimating the population of San Pedro to range between 15,000 to 20,000 persons, that is men, women and children, locals and foreigners.

Well, the official figure puts us at about 13,000 and at this point it does not matter too much whether the census report is accurate for San Pedro or not.  A lot of folks we have heard from, say they were not counted; so it is realistic to assume that the figure should be a bit higher, definitely not lower.

Fine, let us work with the 13,000 figure. We wanted numbers, right?  Now what? HEALTH  

Let us examine the health services of Belize and particularly of San Pedro since we are dealing with only 13,000 of the 314,000 living in the country of Belize. First of all there is a ratio of the total number of doctors or health providers in relation to the population. The world average puts it at 1: 1,722 which means that there is one doctor for every 1,722 persons. It is interesting to note that Cuba leads the world with a ratio of 1:170. Most areas in the United States have a ratio of 1:400.  Mexico has a ratio of one doctor per 500 persons. Guatemala who is our next neighbor has a ratio of 1: 1,100.

Now let us look at Belize. A report produced by PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and by WHO (World Health Organization) sets a standard ratio of doctors per population as 1:600. At this standard ratio, it means that San Pedro should have 22 doctors. We know that there are 2,283 health providers in Belize, that is counting administration as well. However, there are only 1,279 doctors and nurses combined. We have only 181 general practitioners in the country and 64 specialized doctors. This report by PAHO signals that the ratio of doctors to population in Belize is currently 1:1,333.  

For San Pedro it means that at this ratio we should have 10 doctors.  But ideally our number should be at the standard recommended of 22.  If we use the U.S. ratio we should have 32 and the Mexico ratio we need 26.  Don’t even consider the ratio of Cuba which would demand us to have 76 doctors serving us on the Island.

Conclusion, we are below the average number of doctors recommended by PAHO and World Health Organization. We need government to put more doctors in our clinic and upgrade it to full time hospital. We also need the public sector, our young graduates from the high school and junior colleges, to enter into the field of medicine and return to San Pedro to render their much needed services. San Pedro has grown by 150% in population but it has not grown in the number of doctors by any significant means. The Census has spoken. It’s time to pay more attention to health services.

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