Belize Medical Associates: New Options On Ambergris Caye & Reflections on Expat Amnesia
Belize Medical Associates Opens on Ambergris Caye Bringing New Options to the Island
Early this week, I visited the new Belize Medical Associates branch that opened just recently on Ambergris Caye. They hosted an Inauguration Party a few weeks back but unfortunately, I was in the States – so I took this opportunity for a private tour of this VERY impressive new building.
Situated on the Grand Caribe Campus aka Caribeville about 1.5 miles north of town, the building for the new clinic is huge and very solid.
I entered, took a seat so that Dr. Renae could finish with her walk-in patients (medical issues always trump blogger tours) and was instantly impressed.
A lovely receptionist at the front desk, a large cool waiting room and a serious list of visiting doctors.
Expat Amnesia is Real, I Suffer Too
As I looked out the window, I started thinking about “Expat Amnesia”. A term I coined (just now (to describe what happens to Americans and Canadians and others from the north that move to Ambergris Caye and seem to forget everything they learned in their formative years (or P.B – Pre-Belize).
This affliction is glamorized on social media – and I see in memes all the time. Here are a few.
Neither of these mentions getting a prostate exam or getting your yearly dental cleaning.
My point? People often move to Ambergris Caye thinking that it will be just like their vacations to Ambergris Caye – just permanent. A permanent holiday from real life.
But I would argue that medical and dental maintenance and EARLY diagnoses are far more important here. Most of my medical experiences in Belize have been good to great so far:
- My boyfriend had a heart attack last year and is feeling great today after having a stint placed in Belize City (went from good to awful to great)
- He is also a bit of a klutz – and his doctor, Dr. Dan in San Pedro, is available instantly to give him stitches (twice in the last year – doesn’t everyone drop a crate of beer bottles on their foot sometimes?)
- I can drop in to see my doctor if I have a question or a concern and she KNOWS me (none of that US stuff…like…”we can see you two months from now, does 2pm on Friday December 16 work for you”)
Those are HUGE pluses but there are downsides as well. Belize is not equipped for many more serious issues – like cancer treatments or complex diagnostics and surgeries. Things are progressing and there is world-class medical care available in Merida, Mexico and other places but it is IMPORTANT to know.
So I had all this in mind as I visited Dr. Renae at Belize Medical Associates. Early detection is even MORE critical if you live in Belize – we should all be going to the doctor regularly!
I looked at the list of doctors visiting the San Pedro Branch from their larger Belize City facility (just a 25 minute plane ride away)…
Orthopedist on Wednesday? Yup. Jeff could totally get those “bum knees” looked at. Arthritis?
Dermatologist on Thursday? Oh gosh. Living in year-round intense tropic sun? We both could easily have a funky mole on our necks.
Gynecologist on Friday? Shucks. I haven’t been to one in quite a few years. Bi-yearly pap smear? My first mammogram.
They also have a pediatrician, mental health professional and internist.
What Differentiates BMA? Why Is It A Great Addition to Ambergris Caye?
They have some serious medical equipment – like an on-site laboratory and a digital X–Ray machine.
I took a look at Dr Renae’s neck.
And there is a new MRI in place in the Belize City facility – the first in the country I believe.
They also are a large network of doctors working together. So you can stop in any time to see Dr. Renae and she can refer you to a specialist if needed.
You are not just being sent offsite…all of your information will be “in-house”. Chances are she will be chatting with her colleague before and after your specialist visit so that you have a team working with you. Your healthcare is a group effort. That’s huge.
Details You and I Should Know And How To Get More Information
For a list of visiting doctors and other information and specials, see the Facebook page: Belize Medical Associates San Pedro
Belize Medical Associates in Belize City is a well established private hospital with a huge number of resources. For more information see their website.
There is a pharmacy with a door to the clinic and one to the outside – for any prescription or non-prescription needs you might have. From aspirin to anti-itch cream to DIGICEL phone CREDIT.
Emergency Care is available 24-Hour – there is an on-site nurse who will call the doctor as needed.
There is a helicopter pad just across the street from the clinic if that sort of emergency transportation is required.
They are MORE than happy to give you an estimate for your medical treatments – I actually got the prices for some tests that I’d like to get. General blood work – thyroid levels – cholesterol.
Dr Renae Reasa is in charge of the clinic. She and her family have lived on the island for over 20 years and she is fully licensed to practice in Belize. Interesting to me: She went to Medical School at the American Medical School of the Caribbean that at the time was located in Montserrat. The whole school and most of the island was evacuated in 1995 when the island’s volcano erupted. At least half the island was rendered uninhabitable and the campus was buried in volcanic ash.
The Building is MORE Than Just a Medical Clinic
I took a tour of the whole building riding in a very fancy stainless steel elevator. (For those who don’t live here, an elevator is not a common thing on Ambergris Caye.)
The second floor is a beautiful spa – roomy and comfortable and crisp and clinically clean. Two large massage beds. And a gorgeous locker room for a private shower after your massage.
I also like the idea of treating yourself to a pedicure or facial after a doctor’s appointment. A bit of a reward.
The third floor is private office space for Sean Feinstein (the owner of Grand Caribe) and his companies.
The top floor – a huge deck overlooking much of the resort – is a large event space. With a vast sunset view in the other direction. It will be used by the restaurant Rain for weddings, conferences, anything as an alternative to shutting down the restaurant’s own rooftop deck.
I DID ask About Medical Insurance
Medical insurance is not really “a thing” in Belize. Generally, you pay for your check-up and meds with cash. The San Pedro Polyclinic provides medical services – free for the most part.
They are looking into it but for now, all procedures are paid for by the patient. And then the patient would have to work for their insurance plan (whether it is their home plan or an Expat plan) for reimbursement.
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll follow up.
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