Governmental Healthcare Performance in Belize
Human resources (HR) are an invaluable resource in any industry, profession, or functional area. Whether we look at the teachers who educate our society, healthcare workers who keep us healthy, policemen or firefighters who keep us safe, first-line workers and engineers that power our societies, or AI designers that take said societies to the next level in terms of development, human resources represent the fundamental building block when it comes to improving our livelihoods.
With this in mind, Belize has decided it wishes to revamp its current healthcare system and produce one in which qualified, professional, and available personnel is always there for its people.
As a result, the Human Resources for Universal Health Strategic Plan 2019-2024 has been put together around 5 pillars of the World Health Organization’s HR for Health Action Framework: leadership, policy, finance, education, and partnership.
The World Health Organization estimates that there will be a shortage of 12.9 million health care workers worldwide by 2035. This is the reason why after the initial 2014 Health Workforce Strategic Plan of Belize ended, the government began an analysis of the most crucial gaps within the system and what it needs to do in order to overcome its challenges.
Under the guidance of the Policy Analysis and Planning Unit in the Ministry of Health (MoH), a series of consultative meetings were scheduled, which ultimately outlined the HRH Strategic Plan’s five main objectives for the next five years, in accordance with the WHO’s framework:
- Strengthen leadership and consolidate governance in human resources for health
- Develop conditions and capacities in human resources for health to expand access to health and health coverage with equity and quality
- Increase investment in human resources for health, in order to increase the pool of qualified personnel, improve the health of the population and contribute to national development
- Strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration to improve education systems for human resources for health
- Strengthen health workforce partnership to respond to the needs of the health system in the transformation towards universal access to health and universal health coverage
Healthcare in 5 acts
Each of these objectives come packed with their own set of priority interventions, baseline values, performance indicators, activities, time-frame, accountability, and means of verification.
To highlight how in-depth Belize has gone about designing its current HRH strategic plan, we’ve outlined in the following part some of the most important elements of note that pertain to each of its five main objectives.
Strengthen leadership and governance
Leadership and governance capacity in HRH aims to harness all that is required to make available appropriately skilled health workers in the right place, at the right time. Under this strategic objective, the Ministry of Health aims to strengthen its capacity to effectively plan and manage the national health workforce at the central and district level.
Develop conditions and capacity for HRH
Inequities persist in the availability, distribution, and quality of the health workforce. Poor retention rates in underserved areas, high mobility and migration, precarious working conditions, and low productivity, all hinder progress in the expansion of quality health services.
Increase investment in HRH
Any investment that improves the health of the population also has the added benefit of improving the overall health of the economy. Therefore, adequate funding, with specific regulations for the health sector, will enable the offer of quality jobs with an improved package of benefits, expansion of scholarship and employment opportunities, and the improvement of health care facilities.
Strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration to improve education
A change in the education system is necessary for planning and managing undergraduate and graduate-level programs in the health sciences, their curricula, and their teaching teams.
This specific strategic objective focuses on the strengthening of education and training capacity by increasing the numbers of qualified teaching staff, teaching and learning materials, and by amending or establishing health career programs where needed.
Strengthen health workforce partnerships
By fostering partnership and improving dialogue among stakeholders from various sectors such as education, finance, public service, regulatory bodies, professional councils, and development partners, the HRH workforce will be strengthened as a result of their active involvement and support.
Challenges and monitoring
While the plan’s structure is quite detailed, there are still certain challenges that it has to face regardless of the preparation that the Belize Ministry of Health has put into creating it. These challenges are layered in two levels – those that have to deal directly with the HRH framework and those that are specific to each region within the country.
When looking at HRH framework challenges, the government has outlined 3 major categories:
- Challenges in HRH Management and Governance
- Health workforce management is highly centralized, resulting in long, bureaucratic processes and weak staff monitoring processes.
- Overall lack of coordination and communication for information sharing between managers and staff.
- Rural retention mechanisms are insufficient for motivating and retaining health workers.
- Challenges in HRH Production and Regulation
- Supply and demand for health workers production are not sufficiently coordinated to optimize resource allocation within the limited capacity of the MoH.
- Weak regulatory mechanisms among professional bodies to promote adequate oversight and patient safety.
- Challenges in HRH Financing and Planning
- Lack of an HRH Unit within the MoH responsible for the development and monitoring of policies and plans.
- Lack of a National HRH Database for proper succession planning.
- Further investment in HRH needed to address shortages and improve the distribution of health workers.
As far as HRH challenges on a per-region basis are concerned, these are as follow:
These challenges, as daunting as they may seem, are not insurmountable and the Belizean government is well aware of this. This is why its Human Resources for Universal Health Strategic Plan 2019-2024 will undergo a thorough monitoring & evaluation (M&E) process, with the aid of the Policy Analysis and Planning Unit, through its Health Planner and HRH Focal Point.
As a result, the HRH Strategic Plan will be subjected to a midterm review in early 2022, as well as an end-term review in 2024.
Moreover, quarterly and annual reports on individual parts of the HRH Strategic Plan will be regularly disseminated to senior management. In addition to this, at the regional and district levels, the monitoring of implementation plans will be integrated into the existing routine health planning and monitoring systems.
As we can see, while it is a tremendous undertaking in its own right, Belize has gone the extra mile and shown the world that it fully understands the needs and requirements of its healthcare system.
While healthcare requires careful planning and implementation, these will only come to fruition if there are proactive partnerships formed between numerous actors within the public and private sectors. The country’s administration has taken to heart this notion and has laid out an exceptionally detailed plan, which will most definitely act as a blueprint for future country strategies.