Nemo isn’t the only national body that’s making sure they’re prepared for this year’s above-average hurricane season. This morning the Ministry of Health and Wellness held its annual health cluster meeting. The session was focused on improving the procedures health facilities have in place in the wake of a natural disaster. Reporter Vejea Alvarez was there and has the story.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Stakeholders from the private and public sectors convened this morning at the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ Vaccine Storage Facility for a Health Cluster meeting. The purpose was to engage the various healthcare providers in discussions focusing on disaster risk management. John Bodden, the Health Disaster Coordinator in the ministry spoke about the importance of the initiative.
John Bodden, Health Disaster Coordinator at MoHW: “This, actually, meeting is to bring all the stakeholders in health and actually review what they have done in terms of their level of preparedness to identify gaps and see how we can actually workout those situations so that we could have a best response whenever we have an emergency or a hurricane. We have to recognise that there’s no one single entity in this country that can have all the necessary manpower or human resources that is required for a response and so whenever we come together we can collaborate and we can network and we can agree of how we can provide an effective communication and response to the general public.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Chief Executive Officer of the KHMH, Chandra Nisbet Cancino also participated in today’s session to discuss strategies that the nation’s referral hospital has in place to mitigate the risk of natural disasters.
Chandra Nisbet Cancino, Chief Executive Officer, KHMH : “As the only tertiary referral hospital in the country, we have to be prepared and we are prepared. So what we are doing today is sitting with the other stakeholders to see if there are areas where we can improve in, for example, the transportation of patients in the event that we have to evacuate. You know, partnering, we’re here at the Western Regional today. We have to visit some of their facilities to see, in the event that we have to evacuate, where the patients will go and to ensure that the patients are safe wherever it is that they have to be transported. Our standard plan is that we withstand up to a Category 3 at the KHMH and anything beyond a Category 3, we evacuate.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Bodden added that the ministry has emergency operation centres in each district that are able to relay information via transmitter radios.
John Bodden, Health Disaster Coordinator at MoHW: “Our system is one that mimics what NEMO has. The communication system we have a transmitter up at Baldy Beacon and then it’s supported by a number of radio systems in the EOCs for the Ministry of Health and then it’s supported also by some handheld radios. That system, once it’s up and running, if we don’t have to really rely on the traditional phone lines that we have. Of course those can easily go down during a disaster and so that is our alternate communication system where we can rely if the traditional system goes down.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The overarching goal of this initiative, according to Dr. Jorge Polanco, the Director of Health Services and Allied Health is to improve the health sector’s preparedness in the event of a natural disaster.
Dr. Jorge Polanco, Director of Health Services and Allied Health: “The reality is that we are aware of the risks associated to any natural disasters, in this case floodings or hurricanes and the intention is to mitigate those risks. We will never be able to get rid of and let the risks disappear because of our geographic location, because of other existing challenges that each institution would have but the intention is to work as a team to share resources, to coordinate, to collaborate, and to mitigate the risks.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Participants of today’s session included representatives from the Belize Healthcare Partners, the Belize Medical Associates, the Belize Emergency Response Team, the Pan American Health Organisation, The Belize Red Cross, the Southern Emergency Services and UNICEF. Reporting for Love News, I am Vejea Alvarez.