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Belize is a country of less than 320,000 residents. As such, you will not find the breadth of specialists and services that are common in North Americans. But what you will find on Ambergris Caye is a reasonable selection of committed general medical practitioners. These family doctors are a reminder of the 1950s in North America, when the family doctor would come to your home when you were seriously ill.
In San Pedro it is not unusual to run into your doctor or dentist on the street, at the store, or at a festival. The patient/doctor relationship is very personal on this small island. The doctors here regularly give their patients their cell phone number. They will not be upset if you call them in an emergency.
Doctors on Ambergris Caye typically spend whatever amount of time is needed during an appointment with a patient, to evaluate their medical problems. The cost of a typical visit to the doctor is less than $30 US.
Many of the doctors on Ambergris Caye also are trained in a specialty. But most of their time is spent treating the diverse day-to-day illnesses or injuries of their local patients. The doctors practicing on the island and the mainland have been trained in countries such as the USA, Cuba, the United Kingdom, Mexico or Guatemala.
There is currently no hospital on Ambergris Caye, although there is a Polyclinic. There is always a doctor on 24-hour call for the Polyclinic.
For a serious emergency, one needs to be flown to a hospital on the mainland, or to another country (Mexico, USA or Guatemala, most commonly). There are an increasing number of high quality facilities on the mainland that provide trained medical staff and excellent medical attention. The cost of treatment is significantly lower than in North America. Belize Medical Associates, in particular, is a good hospital that provides quality care, comprehensive medical tests, and new equipment.
Hospitals in Belize include:
The only hyperbaric chamber in the country is located on Ambergris Caye. Divers from around the country are flown to the island when decompression treatment is required.
There are a variety of travel health care insurance policies available. If you do not have a travel policy and become ill, you will be treated. But if you don’t have acceptable health insurance, you’ll be required to pay with cash, or by credit card. The cost of treatment in Belize is very reasonable, in comparison to the United States. A typical doctor’s visit is usually $20-30, depending on the area of the country you live in or are visiting.
Many health insurance policies – except for Medicaid, Medicare and certain HMOs – cover medical expenses while traveling. But do check your policy before you visit to be sure you are covered.
For expats living in Belize, there are a variety of health insurance policies available. Reputable worldwide health insurance companies include BUPA and IMG.