The bed capacity within the Covid-19 Unit at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) has maxed with three of the patients currently on ventilators. This along with the admissions at the Northern Regional Hospital has put Belize’s hospitalization rate as it relates to Covid-19 is at the highest it has been since the onset of the virus strain in the country. According to reports from the Office of the Director of Health Services what is currently taking place is what they tried hard to avoid, namely, minimizing morbidity, mortality and overwhelming the health system. To add to the concern over the current situation is the anticipation of more cases over the long holiday.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “I think we are very very impacted now. The amount of patients we have hospitalized is not something we had seen before. We have never had twenty plus patients hospitalized at any point in time, not at the beginning of the epidemic for us and not when we had started having that surge in July/August but it is a growing concern because when you look at the facilities up north and what’s happening at Karl Heusner the numbers which we anticipate will continue to increase has to be something that is of great concern to us. I mean if we are not going to be concerned about that I don’t know what will be required then for us to reach a level where we have to be concerned from the health system standpoint. It’s not just a question of filling in beds it’s a question of overwhelming your health resources. You will note that most of our efforts have been in trying to contain it, in trying to do public health prevention measures so that you don’t get an overwhelmed hospital system and I think we’re getting there when you’re looking at beds being filled. The update I have is for example we have nine confirmed cases hospitalized at Karl Heusner, three of them are ventilated and we have three other cases that are classified as persons under investigation which is highly suspect cases which are pending a lab result. Corozal had up to this morning five patients hospitalized as well we had not previously reported on that, two of them are confirmed cases and three are persons under investigation. In Orange Walk we had also nine cases hospitalized so when you look at that I mean you’re talking about at least eighteen of these patients confirmed three ventilated and the remainder of patients- what’s that 25 now- who are occupying a bed as a highly suspect COVID-19 case or a confirmed case so that bed capacity can be quickly at the rate we’re going it can be quickly overwhelmed. I don’t have any notes of Western and Southern Health Region having any patients hospitalized. I do know that there’s a patient that arrived and died in PG and I just got this note a while ago so that person was swabbed post mortem, that sample is on it’s way to Belize City so I don’t have anybody hospitalized in those areas. As I had said there’s five in Corozal and nine in Orange Walk. The bed capacity in Orange Walk they had three more beds specific for COVID-19 and in Corozal they would have had three more specific for COVID-19. Karl Heusner it’s six in the specific COVID-19 area and then after that they just start expanding into the other areas that have set aside for potential COVID-19. So the fact that you have nine plus three twelve that means that they have already started using other areas that are not exclusive for COVID-19 even though you only have three people that are ventilated.”
The epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in Belize is the Orange Walk District. The rates of confirmed cases have surged over the last few weeks as was predicted by Dr Marvin Manzanero. His prediction came during the time of the September celebrations where it was anticipated that people would not be adhering to social distancing.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “There’s multiple factors. Again we have never shied away from responsibility where we are but you have to also acknowledge and we have to acknowledge as well that there is only so much you’re going to be able to do. We still have patients that are in frank denial that they have SARSCOV2 and I’m saying because I have gotten calls from persons who are concerned that they don’t think they have SARSCOV2 or that whatever diagnosis we are giving them is not entirely true. For people who are aware of the situation they simply do not want to know, they don’t want to be tested for a variety of reasons it might be for a lack of information and Ministry of Health might be partly responsible for not perhaps educating as widely as we should as some circles would say and so people know but they just will tell you that they do not want to know because they don’t want to be placed under quarantine. Some people will yell you “I have a family member I know is positive and I’m having signs and symptoms so I must have it but I don’t need to go and be checked.” and then there’s the fear and distrust of the system where people are simply not accessing health services for a variety of reasons. People are showing up rather late and even when they show up they refuse to be referred to Karl Heusner because they feel that then they will be intubated and intubation means a higher mortality rate but you’re placing patients on ventilation precisely because they are complicated patients where you’re trying to have a better outcome so people who are not ventilated are dying so I don’t know what people anticipate is going to happen. So it’s rather troubling because there’s multiple factors I mean we still people socializing, we still see very improper use of masks and we still see groups of more than ten. This is another long weekend coming, remember we had said at the beginning of September because people had asked us when is this curve going to go down, we had a dip as I have said before in the second week of September but we anticipated that we would have had surges in the third and fourth week of September into the first week of October and that’s what we are finding now but at the rate we are going I think it runs the risk of continuing to escalate and if you have a long weekend where people are just not adhering to basic prevention measures then it’s just going to continue to grow.”
With the surge in cases up in the north, many from the public domain are calling for a shutdown of the Orange Walk District. While there may be some logic in the shutdown, Dr Manzero pointed out that a lockdown or curfew will not help the situation if residents insist on going against the regulations.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Some of the people in the community have called for that but again we can make recommendations as to what can happen the decisions is obviously beyond the Ministry of Health but again as a basic public health measure the question that we will always come back and ask people is ‘Okay we are locked down how long ? Maybe two weeks, three weeks and then it opens back up again and we continue doing the same things we are doing. It doesn’t matter how many times you get lock down or even the issue of curfew people are saying put us under curfew but I mean I don’t know if your required a curfew that you then have to go and enforce it. I mean if you have no business on the street then there is no business on the street I don’t know that you require a curfew to make it known to people if you have nothing essential to do then just stay home. So it has to do with over all behavior change because it’s not going to go away. We anticipated we would have had a spike towards the end of November, a further spike, and going into December simply because of the flu season so I’m not so sure whether a lockdown is entirely the only answer. I think it has to do with more people changing their behavior. It has to do with more people willing to change their behavior and accepting the fact that SARSCOV2 is here and looking around and noticing that people are dying and more people will die- that’s the reality, more people will die.”
The infographics for today are yet to be released but our newsroom was able to get the preliminary data from Dr Manzanero. According to the good doctor, two deaths are currently under investigation in Punta Gorda while a Belize Defence Force volunteer passed away last night.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “The preliminary data for today- and again that’s pending because you now have increasing numbers of positive cases – 54 positive for today. I have no idea where these are from but you note we’re following a situation as you have said Coast Guard, situations in Belize City, situations at the Kolbe and in Orange Walk see what’s going to happen particularly with patients that are being hospitalized because the bed capacity can be exceeded through this weekend.”
Reporter: And the death tolls is still at thirty four ?
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Thirty four, I don’t have as I said that patient – two patients that had sudden death in Belize City that are pending a result. The one in PG which probably even if it is a confirmed case would not be captured in this infographic that probably will be tomorrow so that’s what we have.”