Last Friday’s press conference also saw an update from within the Ministry of Health as it relates to the present inventory on equipment, protective gears and testing kits. CEO in the ministry, Dr George Gough indicated that the country’s current supply will last for some months.
Dr. George Gough, CEO, Ministry of Health: “Our inventory up to yesterday is 20,000 PCR tests available and if we’re going to be doing an average of say 270-300 test a day well you can do the math it’s going to hold us for another seventy days. With that said we’re all aware also that we have the 13,000 BioSensor rapid antigen tests and PAHO in this week like the Director said is delivering another 10,000, that should put us at a comfortable 23,000 rapid antigen tests from the BioSensor community and also we have moved ahead to secure funds to procure an additional 20,000 tests from the Abbott platform which that process has started. Now if we look at the airport scenario where most people are coming with their PCR and it’s going to at least alleviate a little bit the load when it comes to the rapid test. So I think in the next couple months having an inventory of 40,000 plus tests should give us a few months to be able to see if protocols will change and how we will be dealing with this testing structure in the months to come within the region. I’m sure the exploration of the airline industry with their rapid test also is going to add a layer for us to be able to mitigate some of that expense because they’re looking at a rapid PCR test I just want to clarifying that, they’re looking at a rapid PCR test and not a rapid antigen test.”
According to Dr Gough the inventory of personal protective gears and supplies are sufficient, even to deal with a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases.
Dr. George Gough, CEO, Ministry of Health: “When it comes to the PPEs and the supplies the Ministry of Finance along with the Government of Belize has been extremely generous in giving us the full support. We have managed to continue to procure to the point that we buy probably an excess of six to nine month supply even with a full blown scenario which nobody wants but at this time we have managed to shore up a bit more when it comes to the reusable part like soap, alcohol, hand sanitizer, when it comes to Clorox, when it comes to all the cleaning aids, when it comes to the mask, the disposable masks, the gowns, the gloves because we are also tasked to supply also the Elections and Boundaries for the incoming nomination and election day. So we have been doing that quietly with the full support to that department. When we move on now to the support of the equipment all the equipment we bought in the first tranche that I explained to you all in the last two or three press conferences those have arrived. We are presently now singed off and waiting for a tranche of $2.6 million dollars through an IDB fund that we bought from seven different suppliers which is a list gamut of equipment which goes from patient monitors, infusions, electrocardiograms, laryngoscopes, we’re also getting an additional twenty ventilators again with cautions because we might get ventilators but we’d not be able to have the full gamut of human resources to run these ventilators. We’re getting an additional sixty three beds we had brought in sixty six about two weeks ago and the list is long -ultrasounds, C arms, quite a few equipment for all the regional hospitals, community hospitals and some support also to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. With this also we moved ahead to secure funding from through IDB to make that deposit for the vaccines. I just want to correct a little number here we really went ahead and procured 238,000 really instead of the 130. We put it at 2138,800 vaccines we made the deposit like both the DHS and the Prime Minister alluded to and we have secured through the IDB funding for the year 2021 to be able to come up with the other balance of $2.1 million US so that has been put in place already. At this point we have total support, we have total logistics, we have total resources when it comes to all the PPEs that is required for the next three to six months in different categories to face this pandemic.”
As it relates to human resources including nurses and lab technicians, Dr Gough explained that the ministry’s budget has notably increased due to the need for additional human resources and the inclusion of overtime hours.
Dr. George Gough, CEO, Ministry of Health: “We have employed close to about eighteen doctors since the pandemic has started. Why we don’t see the numbers right away ? Because I send three, I send four, then I send three, as I go getting them I go employing them. Nurses the DHS was correct 1920 and we have rehired even the ones that their contract had come to an end or the ones that had already served their time and would not be eligible for employment we also managed to reemploy them. In fact I can’t find enough nurses to employ if I could employ them. We have moved on also to employ whoever which are trained in the lab, the lab technicians, we have employed as much as we have found. One of the key things I thinks is important as we move on beside that human resource portion of it is that we are already low when it comes to certain regions and what this has done is it has come to fill our demand between our flu clinics. I keep reminding all my colleagues that we created a separate department, we created a flu clinic beside our out patient clinic, beside our hospital so the rosters all of a sudden grew by 30% and then the demand and the over time also grew by 30% so what we have done within the regions is we have moved from the eight hours shift to a twelve hour shift and that has been able to mitigate a bit of the overtime and bring it down. Now this come as a huge sacrifice and cost of the healthcare workers, I’m asking you instead of working eight hours a day to work twelve hours. Yes you’re compensated, yes we probably ask you to do four days in a week to hold the amount of hours for the week but most of the times people will not go to work four days a week they will go the full five or six days a week but that human resource challenge has remained and I must proudly say that we have been able to keep it and the staff has been very very responsible and the staff has been able to hold their end.”