7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesWednesday, February 10, 2016

Is Deadly Afla-Toxin Eating Your Rice? Importer Says Yes, Bureau Of Standards Says No
Is there a deadly contaminant in your rice? Importer Jack Charles says there is! And he says he’s confirmed it with a top lab in the US. The contaminant is calle...
Police Say He Robbed Tourists, And Put A Gun To Truck Driver’s Head
For the past two nights, we’ve been reporting on the robbery at the Tropical Education Centre, which left 2 Canadian tourists anxious to leave the country,...
Guatemalan Perfume Vendor Found Dead, Decomposed Off Southern
A Guatemalan woman was found dead in an orchard along the Southern Highway. Yesterday afternoon around 3:30, Dangriga police were called out to an orchard near miles...
Another Body On Southern Hwy
While police are looking into Giron’s case, they are also following up on another suspected murder case. On Friday, January 29th around 6:45 in the morning, 30 year old Jose Pedro Menjivar...
Moving Forward With The Base At Sarstoon
This morning, we received word that a group of high-ranking military officers were heading to the Sarstoon River, and this evening, the Government Press Office c...
Trash Fuels Fire At Country Foods
There was a fire at Country Foods in Spanish Lookout this afternoon at 3:00. When we spoke to the manager this evening, he told us that one of his employees had lit a pile of garbage o...
Haulover Collision
There was a collision on the Haulover Bridge this afternoon. Just after 3:00, a Nissan X Terra was crossing the bridge from the direction of Ladyville to Belize City when the d...
The Sea Swallowed By Silt At Southern Foreshore?
What’s happening to the sea on southern foreshore? It’s disappearing! That’s what residents have been telling is for the past two weeks – and we thought maybe it...
“Yabra”, Can History Be Salvaged?
Yesterday, we told you about the community planning experts from the American Planning Association who arrived in Belize to assist the Belize City ...
Tackling Zoning Squarely At City Hall
And while Yabra has been singled out for special attention, the truth is the city has been growing in a disorderly fashion for decades, without any plan or zoning co...
Mayor Explains Paving Delay
But, while Mayor Bradley is pushing zoning as the City moves to roll out the Master Plan, what about unfinished concrete streets like those in the area of Cinder...
A Proliferation of Paving, Excluding Ebony
And while Cindarella Plaza will get its pavement eventually, what about Ebony Street? Yesterday, we showed you the public plea from a resident who begged the City Council to work on his...
Duck Lane Denied “Sake-A Dalla Van”?
Also, while we had the opportunity, we asked the Mayor about Duck Lane, which is the alley off Orange Street which the City’s Dollar Vans make use of while trans...
Dauntless Darrell Disheartened?
And apart from today, you might have noticed that Mayor Darrell Bradley has kind of gone under the radar since his defeat at the polls on November 4th. ...
Renal Relief With Taiwan Assistance
Belize and Taiwan today signed an agreement to improve public health. The 2 million plus dollars form the Taiwanese will be used principally for a project tar...
KHMH Explains Fee Hike
As we told you last night, starting on Monday the 15 th of February the price for all non-emergency clinic services at the KHMH will increase to $25 dollars w...
Keeping KHMH From Backsliding With Bad Debts
And staying on the topic of KHMH’s past financial woes, the hospital was contending with unpaid bills amounting to 9 million dollars. But in his Independence Day spe...
Life’s a Beach At Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker has a long history of trying to build beaches – only to have them reclaimed by the tides, or occupied by some developer. But, the island called ...
CODICADER Cometh!
CODICADER is coming to Belize! If you don’t know what that means, CODICADER is the CENTRAL AMERICAN athletic championships. Belize will be hosting it for the first time this year, and the...
Central American Cross Country Championship For Belize
But the CODICADER games are not the only Central American games that are going to be played in Belize this year. The 10th Annual Central American Cross Country Championship is also being h...
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7 News Belize - News:
Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers, we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English

Is Deadly Afla-Toxin Eating Your Rice? Importer Says Yes, Bureau Of Standards Says No

Is there a deadly contaminant in your rice? Importer Jack Charles says there is! And he says he’s confirmed it with a top lab in the US. The contaminant is called Afla Toxin – which is carcinogenic, meaning it causes cancer, and it’s also linked to liver disease and other ailments.

Today, after holding back for more than a week to get some response from Government, Charles sent out the test results, when it became clear that Government wouldn’t budge.

They show three different brands of local rice, which he bought off the shelf and sent to Eurofins Laboratory in New Orleans, Louisiana. The test results for all three brands of rice show the presence of aflatoxins – but at less than two micrograms per kilogramme.

The law – which is Statutory Instrument of October 2015, says, quote, “Rice shall be free of…contaminants…that is, aflatoxin which is created by improper storage. “


So, then Charles takes the words “free of contaminants” to mean that the rice should have no aflatoxins, meaning that it has tested negative for the contaminant. He declined an interview, but sent a release, which says, quote, “ The results (were) outside the limits…especially those related to biological contaminants which are harmful to human health.”

But, the rice producers say he has it all wrong. They say that the tests, in fact, confirm that local rice is safe to eat. Attorney for the rice producers, Eamon Courtenay told us quote, "The test results establish that Belizean produced rice is safe for human consumption. Mr Charles' press release amounts to a libel on my clients good name. This latest desperate attack by the importer is misleading and calculated to cause panic in the Belizean community. It confirms what I said: he will do absolutely anything in order to make a profit by supporting imported rice."

We couldn’t get comment from BAHA to find out what “free of…. contaminants” means specifically in terms of micrograms, but the meaning is clear enough. The Ministry of Agriculture referred us to the Bureau of Standards – which sent a release late this evening. It says, quote, “ the Bureau…concluded that the test results provided…by Mr. Jack Charles shows that none of the rice samples analysed contain detectable levels of aflatoxins and as a result does not pose any threat to human health.”

And the usually indifferent agency ends with a flourish, adding, quote, “It is regrettable that the commercial interests of one individual, veiled under the guise of food safety concerns, is being used in an attempt to erode the confidence in food safety which the people of Belize now enjoy.”

What we have found from our own research is that regulatory authorities in different countries have set tolerance limits for aflatoxins that range from 0 to 50 micrograms per kilogram. In India, for example, a tolerance limit of 30 micrograms is their standard. The rice tested in Belize is less than two micrograms.

And what causes aflatoxin contamination? Well to really simplify it aflatoxin is like a type of mold – but a very harmful one, that is created when stored rice or grains get wet. It affects all types of grains, including corn, and is considered an unavoidable contaminant of food.


Police Say He Robbed Tourists, And Put A Gun To Truck Driver’s Head

For the past two nights, we’ve been reporting on the robbery at the Tropical Education Centre, which left 2 Canadian tourists anxious to leave the country, and a man injured in the hospital after the thieves shot him for his pickup, which they used to flee the scene. Well today, the alleged gunman went to court.

He’s 21 year-old Adolphus Palacio Jr., a resident of Mahogany Heights Village, and he’s at the Belize Central Prison tonight. He was taken before the Magistrate Court this evening with his arm heavily bandaged, the injury he allegedly suffered after he shot 52 year-old Jorge Lopez and tried to kill him for his vehicle.

That’s also another loose end that police tied up. They found Lopez’s truck this morning in Mahogany Heights base don information passed to them by a concerned member of the public. It was found abandoned and parked in a wooded area.

Palacio who was under police guard at the KHMH, while his chop wound was being treated, was released into the custody of investigators. They moved swiftly to charge him with 2 counts of aggravated assault, 2 counts of robbery, and 2 counts of conspiracy to commit robbery.

He was arraigned before Magistrate Deborah Rogers this evening, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges. But, because it is a firearm offence, he could not be granted bail. Palacio Jr. was remanded into custody until April 12.

As we reported, Canadians retirees Steven Temple and Cynthia Fredrick were staying at the Belize Zoo’s Tropical Education Centre. Fredrick had only just exited their room, and while she was taking a photograph of a crocodile, 2 men snuck up on her and forced her to open her door at gunpoint. Fredrick and Temple were then locked inside their bathroom, and the thieves used that opportunity to go through their belongings and steal 2 cellular phones and 2 cameras.

They then snuck out of the Centre’s property through the back gate, and that’s when they came upon Lopez. He stopped for these 2 men because he thought that they needed help. He was rewarded for his kindness with a bullet to the back. The gunman then pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger 3 more times, but the gun jammed. He used that distraction to grab a machete which he keeps in the truck. He swung it at his shooter and chopped him on the arm.

The other man picked up a rock and tried to bash Lopez over the head, but he put his arm in the way to deflect the blow. That man instructed the injured gunman to shoot him in the head, but instead he jumped into the vehicle. Both men got in and drove off leaving Lopez on the road where he had fallen.

Police say that Adolphus Palacio Jr. is the main suspect in the attack on Lopez, and he will be investigated for attempted murder and robbery for the theft of the vehicle.


Guatemalan Perfume Vendor Found Dead, Decomposed Off Southern

A Guatemalan woman was found dead in an orchard along the Southern Highway. Yesterday afternoon around 3:30, Dangriga police were called out to an orchard near miles 6 on the Southern Highway. They found the partially decomposed body of 39 year old Lydia Janet Garcia Giron. She was found wearing only a pair of short blue jeans pants. A black bra was found beside her. She was identified by her sister. The only recognizable features were Giron’s false teeth and a tattoo on her thigh. According to the police report, Giron went missing on January 19th – and her whereabouts had been a mystery until her body was found yesterday. She lived in Melchor but frequently traveled around Belize selling perfume. When we spoke with police today they told us they are still looking into the case to determine if she was murdered. Although the post mortem results say the cause of death is “blunt force trauma to the head” police say they can’t confirm that until the official forensic report is sent in. That will give police a better idea as to what exactly happened and when it happened. Police suspect she died or was killed a month ago. We will keep following on that case.

Important to note is that 2 women were raped in this same 6 miles area on the Southern Highway. The first incident happened on December 11th 2015. A pregnant woman had just come off the bus at the 6 miles junction when a man with a grey t-shirt covering his face, dragged her into a nearby orange orchard, held a knife to her throat and raped her. The second incident occurred on January 9th. In this case a 48-year-old woman got off the bus at the same 6 miles junction. She was standing alone when a man with a brown T-Shirt tied on his head and carrying a machete approached her. He dragged her into the same nearby orange orchard where she was beaten, raped and robbed. Jamaican Dwight Johnson has been charged with 2 counts of rape for both these incidents.


Another Body On Southern Hwy

While police are looking into Giron’s case, they are also following up on another suspected murder case. On Friday, January 29th around 6:45 in the morning, 30 year old Jose Pedro Menjivar Murcia was found in a semi-unconscious state in another orchard near miles 15 and 16 on the Southern Highway – this is in the Alta Vista Area. He had several injuries to his head. Police told us today that Murcia was out at Finas Bar the night before. He was hanging out with friends but he realized his bike had been stolen. Murcia got into an argument with another man at the bar but the bar owner chased him off. Police found him the next morning thrown in the orchard. He was rushed to the Southern Regional Hospital then transferred to the KHMH. He fought for his life for a few days but died on February 6th. Police have questioned the man Murcia got into an argument with at the bar that Thursday night but they can’t confirm if he attacked Murcia. This man is known to police and was charged for striking a man in the head with a bottle in December. In regards to Murcia’s post mortem results – the cause of death is blunt force traumatic injuries to the head followed by other complications. We will also keep following up on this case.

Moving Forward With The Base At Sarstoon

This morning, we received word that a group of high-ranking military officers were heading to the Sarstoon River, and this evening, the Government Press Office confirmed why.

National Security Minister John Saldivar, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Frank “Pawpa” Mena, and the top brass of the police and BDF went to the Joint Forces Forward Operating Base being built at the mouth of the Sarstoon River to check on progress.

Seen here, the building’ frame was already constructed, and the contractors were moving apace with their work to complete it. A press release from the Government says, quote, “On site the delegation was able to appreciate the rapid pace at which the construction is proceeding. Elements of the BDF have set up temporary installations at the site as the work progresses.”


Trash Fuels Fire At Country Foods

There was a fire at Country Foods in Spanish Lookout this afternoon at 3:00. When we spoke to the manager this evening, he told us that one of his employees had lit a pile of garbage on fire in the yard but the wind carried the fire to a pile of expired rice, beans and eggs that was in front of the building. That's when the fire got out of control. The fire department is processing the scene right now. What you see here is a video taken from Facebook – in it , you can see the 2 piles of garbage on fire. The manager told us the fire caused more than $5,000 worth of damages.

Haulover Collision

There was a collision on the Haulover Bridge this afternoon. Just after 3:00, a Nissan X Terra was crossing the bridge from the direction of Ladyville to Belize City when the driver crashed into a oncoming dump truck. The impact sent the Nissan barrelling towards the left side of the bridge. The Nissan vehicle with handicapped plates extensive damages to its front end and the driver, 37 year old Hattieville resident Raquel Burke was rushed to the KHMH by a BERT ambulance. The extent of her injuries remains unknown. As for the driver of the truck 33 year old Christopher Gillett of Burrell Boom, police report that he received no injuries although the truck sustained damages to its control arms, hood, rear view mirrors and springs. Police cleared the road around 4:30 after the truck was removed.

The Sea Swallowed By Silt At Southern Foreshore?

What’s happening to the sea on southern foreshore? It’s disappearing! That’s what residents have been telling is for the past two weeks – and we thought maybe it had something to do with the cold front and all the north winds playing tricks with the tides. But, that’s not it. The problem persists – and when we went there this morning, we saw that outside the seawall, there was a massive buildup of silt, so much so that where once there was only sea and waves rolling into the seawall, now there’s only a thick buildup of silt pushing against the seawall. Residents in the area say they have never seen it like this.

Experts tell us it’s probably the result of siltation buildup in the Belize harbor – which is famous for that. They say it needs a proper dredging by the relevant authority.

But who is that authority? Well, there’s an international port right across form this at the Fort Street Tourism Village. And the silt buildup will eventually affect the huge tenders that traffic to and from the village. As far as we know, it was to have been dredged by October of last year, but the sight we saw would suggest that didn’t happen.

WE’LL keep following up on the story – but the Pelicans aren’t complaining, this evening we saw them getting easy pickings in the abnormal shoal.


“Yabra”, Can History Be Salvaged?

Yesterday, we told you about the community planning experts from the American Planning Association who arrived in Belize to assist the Belize City Council in making improvements to the part of the City known as Yabra.

The head of the delegation is Justin Moore, a professional who works with the New York City Department of City Planning. Today, Mayor Darrell Bradley was on the ground with the team touring the area to come up with the best strategy to revitalize a part of the city which played an important part in its history, but has been forgotten in the present.

Daniel Ortiz reports:

Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley, his technical staff at the City Council, and the consultants from the American Planning Association spent most of morning touring the City.

They then moved into the Yarborough Area to survey important aspects of the open space, such as the Football Field and Basketball Court, and the next door Wesley College Compound.

The Mayor then hosted his consulting guests on a boat tour of the Yarborough Waterfront, to get a distant perspective of the coast line that “Yabra" occupies.

The working plan right now is to transform this community to preserve its cultural and historical elements.

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"This area has several very renowned churches in Belize. You have the Anglican Cathedral, you have the Methodist church who is very active including with Wesley College. You have a lot of schools in this community, you have an organic level of businesses within the community, you have moppy who is very involved in community projects and so forth. So when you look at an area for intervention, you want to ensure that there is a vibrant community and artefacts that you want to maintain and preserve."

"Our main focus would be to increase the historic character of this area. I think that the area itself has a lot of natural treasures and artefacts in terms of telling stories of Belize City. But I think that it's often time overlooked; I grew up near to here and I look at Yabra Cemetery as being a place that I always regarded with some degree of reverence and I think that we can bring back the Yabra area, including the cemetery making it really like a focal point. When you walking through the cemetery, at the end of the cemetery you have a play yard, beyond from that you have the St. John's Cathedral. Right next to that you have the House of Culture and you have a cemetery right beyond the bridge by East and West Collet canal where we looked at as well with the Crips; when I went there I didn't even know that was a cemetery. I'm the mayor of the city, I've grown up in Belize City and I don't know the significant of particular areas and I think if we can make really the cemetery the focal point."

The purpose of a project like this for City Hall is to organize Belize City into zones so that they can stop haphazard growth that becomes problematic in the future.

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"The genesis of all of this is that we as a city have over the last 2 years been really focused a lot on urban planning. And when you look at Belize City and when I look at Belize City, I see that the Northern Highway would be a business district. So that would support businesses like banks and insurance companies and large stores because you have the roadway there, the networks and then you have parking. It's easily conducive to that kind of venture. You look at areas like these in terms of the down town and Fort George and Albert; which would be more the historic district, the tourism and entertainment areas for the city. And then what you would do is you would develop Belize City around economic cluster zones like a commercial district or like an historic and entertainment zone and then you are incorporating economic activity, small businesses and then concerns from residence and you can zone the city properly from that."

The administrators at City Hall are hoping that Yarborough residents will come out and actively participate in transformation of their living space.

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"The people from the American Planning Association are meeting with groups in the area, students, they are meeting with members of the various churches, meeting with business person, they are meeting with individual residence who have given us permission to go into their homes and to talk with them and as well they are looking at the physical site itself. A major part of the project has to be the level of community participating and community engagement. It's an area where we will want to have this intervention because we believe it is ideal for intervention but that has to be something that the community welcomes and will support for purposes of ensuring that there is sustainability to the project."


Tackling Zoning Squarely At City Hall

And while Yabra has been singled out for special attention, the truth is the city has been growing in a disorderly fashion for decades, without any plan or zoning considerations.

Viewers may remember the public disagreement that residents of Palm Grove had with the City Council 2 years ago when they learnt that an apartment complex was approved for construction in their community. Well, despite protestations, that complex now towers above the residential area.

Then, about a month ago, resident of Kings Park called us to complain about an apartment complex in their area. Today, the Mayor told us that these are all instances of an ad hoc attempts at zoning, and so, the council has decided to go all in on this policy but in consultation with the city residents:

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"We are dealing with zoning and how we've dealt with it is in an ad hoc way. Recently I've had issues with residence in the Caribbean Shores area who wants a particular part of their area zoned. We recently dealt with zoning last year with the Palm Groves estate that was recently completed. We had zoning issues with Bella Vista, we've had the experience under Hon. Carlos Perdomo as it then was in terms of the Landivar area, so that zoning has really been an area that has been looked at in an ad hoc way but when you see all these issues coming to ahead, it really means that the city together with the central government partners need to take the bull by the horn, we need to lead the development of Belize City as opposed to like following up. If I'm investing in a particular area, I want to know the land use policy in that area for the next 30 years."

"I have met with several members of the community; I've looked the draft in terms of the zoning regulations. We're having a public meeting tomorrow evening so that we will disclose the draft, we will allow a comment period for people to either voice their concern there at the meeting or to respond in writing after the meeting so that they could; if they want to take it to their lawyer, whatever they want to do. Because we want this to be something and zoning has to be something that is organic and comes from the community but that you do need leadership in urban planning and zoning and this is a responsible way."

The City Council is inviting the residents of Kings Park out to a public meeting to be held tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. at the Lopez Mateos Park where they can make their views


Mayor Explains Paving Delay

But, while Mayor Bradley is pushing zoning as the City moves to roll out the Master Plan, what about unfinished concrete streets like those in the area of Cinderella Plaza?

The Mayor told us months ago that the reason this very trafficked intersection was not completed was because the Flood Mitigation Project in this area needed to be finished first.

But flood mitigation looks to be finished in that area, and so we asked the Mayor why hasn’t the work hasn’t resumed on this much trafficked area?:

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"It's not completed, it is going to be completed; the street is finished in terms of the section of Baymen Avenue and in terms of Cindarella Plaza. We have a councillor who sits on the steering committee for the mitigation project; he is involved in the discussions and so forth. I'm confident that we are pushing them in relation to completing that as soon as possible because it is a major woe for residence. The Cindarella Plaza is a major access way and we need that area to be repaired and to be fixed. I can't speak in relation to the specific timeline but I can say that it's going to be done."


A Proliferation of Paving, Excluding Ebony

And while Cindarella Plaza will get its pavement eventually, what about Ebony Street? Yesterday, we showed you the public plea from a resident who begged the City Council to work on his street because the dust has become unbearable. Well, when we asked the Mayor about it, and he said that while he hears the concern, the City doesn’t have the money to work on that street right now:

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"I know that the street itself was improved, we've not focused a lot on the concreting projects but there has been a major improvement in remedial works carried out throughout Belize City so that I can't speak necessarily in relation to Ebony street because I don't look at individual streets; but I can speak on the reports that I get in relation to regular ongoing upgrades which are going on throughout Belize City and I'm satisfied that we are doing a good job. We don't deal with one off streets, so if somebody calls and say I the complain about the street, we don't run and do that. We have a work plan, we follow our master plan, we look at planning in terms of strategic areas."


Duck Lane Denied “Sake-A Dalla Van”?

Also, while we had the opportunity, we asked the Mayor about Duck Lane, which is the alley off Orange Street which the City’s Dollar Vans make use of while transporting passengers from Lake Independence to the down town area.

A few weeks ago, the dollar van drivers told Yaya Marin Coleman on her Two Cents Cam series that the reason that this street is being neglected is because the City Council views them as a kind of nuisance.

When we asked about that allegation, Mayor Bradley said that couldn’t be further from the truth:

Daniel Ortiz

"I know that the dollar van persons have requested or have voiced their opinions publicly that they want the city administrators to pave Duck Lane. Have you all looked at that?"

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"I haven't heard that concern and I haven't looked at that."

Daniel Ortiz

"Recently they aired their concern, we can only take it as their discontent on which it was on the WUB 2 cents cam in which they are suggesting that the city council is neglecting that particular alley because they see the dollar van as a nuisance. Is that the position of the city council in relation to that area?"

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"I can speak for myself, I have heard no concern in relation to duck lane. I don't know in relation to the concern in the form which it was raised. I do say that we look at street and street improvement as being a major part of the city and I will give Darrell Bradley's opinion that I do think the dollar van is a very necessary feature of our public transportation system because it is regular and it is affordable and we've worked with the persons in terms of the dollar van so that I don't have a particular issue with that. I think that is an important and affordable part of our transportation system in Belize. We try to incorporate them but I have nothing in relation to add with Duck Lane. It's not a street that we focus on simply because of the priority that we've had in other streets and it's not a street that we've ignored. If I had the money I would do all the streets but it's not that we say that we will do this one street; we do it in a strategic way."


Dauntless Darrell Disheartened?

And apart from today, you might have noticed that Mayor Darrell Bradley has kind of gone under the radar since his defeat at the polls on November 4th.

So has dauntless Darrell - that public official so determined to surpass the status quo of inefficiencies at the local government level – now bowed to business as usual status quo? We asked him about that today:

Daniel Ortiz

"Why is it that pre-election and post-election Darrell Bradley seems to be less active?"

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"I don't know where that comes from. We are right now dealing with our collective bargaining agreement for the city council. We're dealing with; this morning I was talking to the director of local government about doing a presentation from the municipal authorities’ bill. I'm out here touring with some people from the American Association."

Daniel Ortiz

"This is two months after."

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City Council

"I don't know months, days whatever you're talking about but every single day, we do projects and activities and we try to do our best to move the city forward. Public perception is public perception but I can tell you that as mayor, I work."


Renal Relief With Taiwan Assistance

Belize and Taiwan today signed an agreement to improve public health. The 2 million plus dollars form the Taiwanese will be used principally for a project targeting the Prevention and Control of Chronic Renal Failure – or what you might know as kidney disease. At the signing today, the Taiwanese Ambassador and the Minister of Health discussed the benefits of the project:..

H.E Benjamin Ho - Taiwanese Ambassador to Belize

"With this agreement, we are going to work together with medical professionals from countries to engage in cooperating of mutual assistant in promoting the so called chronical disease preventive contact cooperating."

Hon. Pablo Marin - Minister of Health

"It's about 2.1 million dollars US that will be in a span of 5 years. The collaboration can continue in this programme but it's directed re and renal failure. As the ambassador mentioned it will have a series of events, training, training our nurses, training our technicians, training our community health workers to go and screen in Belize this disease. The community has to realise that we have to start to eat healthy, do exercise."

Government will access technical support from the Taiwanese in areas of health education, disease screening and clinical services.


KHMH Explains Fee Hike

As we told you last night, starting on Monday the 15 th of February the price for all non-emergency clinic services at the KHMH will increase to $25 dollars where it used cost $10 or $15 dollars per consult – between a 75% and 150% increase. Today we sat with the Financial Director of the KHMH, Norman Augustine Jr. who told us why the fees need to increase:

Norman August Jr. - Director of Finance, KHMH

"There are several areas of services that we do here at KHMH. We have several wards, we have accident and emergency, we have specialties, we have radiology and we have of course when people come in and pay their 10 dollars accident and emergency, they get their service. As you have heard before for just one drip that we place on an individual, its 24 dollars, all they are paying is 10. Generally it cost us far more than what they are paying. At the clinic, which is the specialist clinic, there are one of two that they charge 10 dollars but most of our specialist clinics is at 15 dollars. 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 represent 16% of what it cost us to run that entire specialist clinic. So we are asking the general public to bear with us and work with the government in their contribution because the government is still matching a significant amount. We are asking them to pay a little bit more at 25 dollars per visit and this is elective, this is not an emergency. So you know your appointment date, you can set aside your little funds and you come in and pay your 25 dollars; which then represents 32% more or less and the government is matching that, a total of 68%. So it's not a fact that we are after the public, it's just that we're asking them to work with us, to contribute a little of what it cost them."

"Also we have announced that physiotherapy fee will be increased effective March 1st. Currently what it cost us to maintain that unit and it provides a very important function for our patience is not being adequately paid for. An introductory price some of our patience who use that fee was shocked and amazed because elsewhere when they go, they would pay about 3 or 4 times that amount. So currently it is 15 dollars for your first session and 10 dollars for subsequent sessions. We are looking at having that be at 30 dollars for your first session and 20 dollars for subsequent sessions."

Emanuel Pech

"Why was it necessary to implement this fee is it because of an increase in the number of patients that you have here? Or is it in relation to an increase in the price of some medicines that you guys bring here that you utilize, what was the need for it?"

Norman August Jr. - Director of Finance, KHMH

"Emanuel that is a very good question to highlight, why was it necessary to do that increase at this time. To be real it was necessary to have done that increase many years ago. Because from then we have been struggling being understaffed, being under resourced in the sense that several times as you know, our CT machine was down for so many months, we lost 160 thousand. Where did that money come from us to fix this machine? We had to struggle each month to put aside a little something to fix back that machine. If you do walk around, we do have infrastructural problems. Our electricity to maintain, to have the patients be comfortable, our ability to have them have the services, our staffing and of course we need to ensure that the tools, the medication, the medical supplies, the drips are in place. It's not that we just want to do it now, it's something that we should have done a long time ago."

Augustine says that with the added increase in fees they project to collect $130,000 dollars more in revenue this year. Their average expenses for the year total an estimated $37 million dollars. Of that some $22 million goes towards salaries. Also of note is that this change in financial structure comes in the wake of the recent increase in Government subvention to pay for a salary increase for the 600-plus hospital employees.


Keeping KHMH From Backsliding With Bad Debts

And staying on the topic of KHMH’s past financial woes, the hospital was contending with unpaid bills amounting to 9 million dollars. But in his Independence Day speech the Prime Minister announced a debt relief for those unpaid bills at KHMH. Government then paid the hospital a distressed price for those bad debts. But what’s to stop that kind of receivables backlog form accumulating again – especially with the moral hazard that government wrote it off once, so the politicians might do it again. Augustine spoke to us about initiatives to discourage the same situation from repeating.

Norman August Jr. - Director of Finance, KHMH

"What we have done in the past had a collecting agency some 3 years ago in an effort for KHMH to collect its money. That did not work out the way we had wanted it to work out. So we internally create our own collection unit that have a softer approach, a more assertive approach in meeting with the patient. If you are taking to an institution in Guatemala or in Merida, the first thing they do is to greet you with sir how are you going to pay for your bill. So we have taken a different approach and encouraging patients to put down something from the time they are admitted to put down their payment from the time they enter the institution."

Augustine tells us that the hospital, on average, collects over $6.5 million dollars in service bills every year.


Life’s a Beach At Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker has a long history of trying to build beaches – only to have them reclaimed by the tides, or occupied by some developer. But, the island called “Carinosa” continues to push for a beach, and a beach it has. The Belize Tourism Board sponsored a project which reclaimed 1,883 linear feet of the beach with widths varying from 70 to 118 feet. It runs between the Sobre las Olas restaurant to Rainbow Restaurant, and then there are widths varying from 40 to 60 feet in areas between Blue Island pier to Len’s Guest House. The BTB reports that 22,000 cubic yards of material were pumped unto the beach.

The project goes along with the establishment of an improved craft centre for local artisans in Caye Caulker.


CODICADER Cometh!

CODICADER is coming to Belize! If you don’t know what that means, CODICADER is the CENTRAL AMERICAN athletic championships. Belize will be hosting it for the first time this year, and the General Secretary of SISCA Anna Escrich was at the Biltmore hotel earlier today where she met with members of the sports council to work out the logistics of the tournament.
National competitions will be played to decide who is going to represent the country in all 6 disciplines. Games are to be held in July.

Central American Cross Country Championship For Belize

But the CODICADER games are not the only Central American games that are going to be played in Belize this year. The 10th Annual Central American Cross Country Championship is also being hosted in Belize. This event is being sponsored by CADICA, the Central American Track and Field Organization. President of the Belize Athletic Association Deon Sutherland spoke to us about this upcoming event and what it means for Belize.
7 local runners will be representing Belize. Games are will be played on the 20th of February.

Moving Ahead With MCC

The last time we visited the MCC three weeks ago, workers were just about finishing up the works on the field. A couple of weeks before, the Ministry of Youth and sports, had jumped on a quick fix project to cover a large trench that surrounded the pitch. So now that the sports council has applied that quick fix, where does that put the original plan to build bigger and more up to standard stadium lights? Today we asked the Director of the National Sports Council Ritchel Dominguez just that.



7 News for Wednesday, 10th February, 2016 from 7News Belize on Vimeo.


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